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THE STORY OF GREECE. By Prof. Jas. A. Harrison 

THE STORY OF ROME. By Arthur Gilman 

THE STORY OF THE JEWS. By Prof. Jas. K. Hosmer 



THE STORY OF NORWAY. By Prof. H. H. Bovesen 

THE STORY OF SPAIN. By E. E. and Susan Hale 

THE STORY OF HUNGARY. By Prof. A. Vamb^ry 

THE STORY OF CARTHAGE. By Prof. Alfred J. Church 




THE STORY OF PERSIA. By S. G. W. Benjamin 




THE STORY OF IRELAND. By Hon. Emily Lawless 


For prospectus of the series see end of this volume 


ffhe Mox^ ojj the j\!ntions 


Story of the Goths 










By G. p. Putnam's Sons 


Entered at Stationers' fJai/, London 

By T. Fisher Unwtn 

Press of 

G. V. Putnam's Sons 
New York 


This little volume is, so far as I have been able to 
discover, the first English book expressly treating of 
the history of the Goths. Adequately to supply the 
strange deficiency in our literature indicated by this 
fact is a task that will require powers far greater than 
mine. Some day, perhaps, the story of the Goths 
will be told in English by a writer possessing the rare 
combination of literary skill and profound scholarship 
that will be needed to do it justice. But in the mean- 
time I would fain hope that this brief sketch may be 
found to have a sufficient reason for its existence. I 
have made no attempt to write a brilliant narrative, 
well knowing that success in such an attempt is 
beyond my reach. My aim has been to relate the 
facts of the history as correctly as I could, and with 
the simplicity of language required by the plan of the 
series in which the work appears — a series intended 
not for scholars, but for readers in whom little 
knowledge of general history is to be pre-supposed. 

If this volume should fall into the hand of scholars, 


it will perhaps be obvious that I have not neglected 
to read most of the original sources of the history ; 
but it may be still more obvious that I have not the 
thorough familiarity with them that might justly be 
demanded if I claimed for my work any independent 
historical value. Remembering the dangers of " a 
little learning," I have endeavoured to escape them 
by refraining from expressing any views which have 
not the sanction of at least one modern scholar of 
repute. The prescribed plan of the work has, of 
course, not permitted me either to adduce arguments 
or to cite authorities in justification of the particular 
conclusions adopted. 

Among the English writers to whom I am indebted, 
the first place belongs to Gibbon, whose greatness 
appears to me in a new light since I have tried to 
compare a small portion of his wonderful work with 
the materials out of which it was constructed. I also 
owe much to Mr. Hodgkin's " Italy and her Invaders," 
and to various articles by Mr. E. A. Freeman. Among 
foreign writers my principal guide has been Dahn ; 
I have also made extensive use of the works of 
Bessell, Waitz, Aschbach, Manso, and Lembke. To 
mention the titles of books that have been merely 
consulted on special points seems to me to be un- 
necessary, and, unless elaborate explanations could be 
added, likely to be also misleading. 

Some surprise may perhaps be occasioned by the 
date chosen for the accompanying map. My reason 
for selecting the year 485 rather than 526 is that, if 
only one map is to be given, the map representing 
the state of Europe at the culminating period of the 



Visigoth dominion, is more useful for the illustration 
of Gothic history as a whole, than one relating to the 
later and intrinsically more interesting epoch. 



November ^ 1887. 



Who were the Goths 


Earliest notices of the Goths : Pytheas, Pliny, Tacitus, i — 
Why the story is worth telling, 3— The people and its names, 
5— Goths and Gepids, 7— Other kindred peoples, 8— What 
the Goths looked like, 9 -Their national characteristics, ii— 
Their manners and polity, 12— Gothic heathenism, 13— The 
runes, 15— Goths and Getes, 19— Emigration from the Baltic 
shores, 20. 


From the Baltic to the Danube . . . 21-29 

Why the Goths came southward, 21— Traditions of the wan- 
dering, 23— Ostrogotha the Patient, 24— First conflict with the 
Romans, 26— King Cniva's victory, 27— Ruin of a Roman 
army, 28— The emperor purchases peace, 29. 


Fire and Sword in Asia and Greece 


Miseries of the empire, 30— Fifteen grievous years, 31— Plun- 
der of Ephesus and Athens, 32—" Let the Greeks have their 
books," 33— Claudius Gothicus, 34— Fifty years of peace, 37. 




How THE Goths Fought with Constantine . 38-42 

The Goths in Dacia, 38 — The long peace broken, 39 — Con- 
stantine victorious, 41 — Geberic and the Vandals, 42. 


The Gothic Alexander ..... 43-49 

The empire of Ermanaric, 43 — The Huns are coming, 45 — The 
tyrant's end, 46 — The Ostrogoths enslaved, 47 — The three 
royal brothers, 48 — Birth of Theoderic, 49. 


The Judges of the Visigoths . . . 50-55 

The three kingdoms of the Visigoths, 50— Events at Con- 
stantinople, 51 — Weakness of Valens, 52 — Athanaric quarrels 
with the Romans, 53 — A peace concluded, 54 — The Visigoths 
pressed by the Huns, 55. 


The Apostle of the Goths .... 56-64 

V^ulfila the bishop, 56 — His birth and education, 57 — "''A 
second Moses," 58 — Arians and Catholics, 59— Wulfila's Gothic 
Bible, 61 — His death, 64. 


Frithigern and Valens — The Battle of 

Hadrianople . . . . . . 65-75 

The Visigoths cross the Danube, 65 — They are oppressed by 
the Romans, 67— Piitience of Frithigern, 68— A rebellion at 
last, 69— Indignation against Valens, 70 — The battle of Had- 
rianople, 72 — A sad day for Rome, 75. 




The Goths and Theodosius .... 76-83 

Constantinople in danger, 76 — Massacre of Gothic hostages, 
78 — Wise policy of Theodosius, 79 — Athanaric at Constanti- 
nople, 80 — The Goths under Roman rule, 81 — The Roman 
army filled with Goths — Danger to the empire, 83. 


Alaric the Balthing 84-98 

Death of Theodosius ; his unworthy successors, 84 — Alaric 
chosen king, 85 — His campaigns in Greece, 86 — The Visigoths 
invade Italy, 87 — They are defeated and retire, 88 — Radagais 
and his invasion, 89 — Stilicho's bargain with Alaric, 91 — 
Roman treachery, 92 — Alaric returns ; Rome surrounded by 
the Goths, 92 — Alaric master of Italy, 95 — Rome taken by 
storm, 96 — Alaric's death, 97 — His funeral, 98. 


King Atawulf and his Roman Queen . . 99-105 

What had happened in the East, 99 — Atawulf's plans of do- 
minion, 100 — The wedding at Narbonne, loi — Murder of 
Atawulf, 103 — What became of Placidia, 105. 


The Kingdom of Toulouse .... 106-125 

The gifr of Aqiiitaine, 106 — Theoderic the Visigoth, 107— The 
Huns invade Gaul, in — The battle of Moirey, 113— The 
second Theoderic, 114— The Vandals at Rome, 115 — Rikimer 
the emperor-maker, 116 — Culmination of the Visigoth do- 
minions, 117 — Beeinnings of decline, 119 — Aggression of ihe 
Franks, 121— The Hart's Ford, 123— The field of Voclad, 124 
— The Visigoths driven from Gaul, 125. 



How THE Western Empire came to an End. 126-132 

Orestes the Illyrian, 126^" Romulus Augustulus," 127 — The 
mixed multitude and their king, 128 — End of the Western 
Empire, 130 — Odovacar, king of Italy, 131. 


The Boyhood of Theoderic .... 133-137 

Grievances of the Ostrogoths, 133 — The boy Theoderic at Con- 
stantinople, 134 — His education and early distinction in war, 
135 — He succeeds to the kingdom, 137. 


The Rival Namesakes 138-144 

The Emperor Zeno, 138 — The two Theoderics, 139 — The em- 
peror's duplicity, 142 — Death of Theoderic Strabo, 143 — The 
Amaling bidden to conquer Italy, 144. 


How the Ostrogoths won Italy . . 1 45-1 51 

A march in winter, 145 — The battle of Verona, 147 — Ravenna 
surrenders, 149 — Murder of Odovacar, 150. 

The Wisdom of Theoderic .... 152-173 

Theoderic, king of Italy, 153 — A bishop pleading for his 
flock, 153 — The king's beneficence, 154 — Gothic colonists in 
Italy, 155 — Theoderic virtually a Western Ctcsar, 156 — Re- 
form of taxation, 157 — Religious toleration, 158 — "Bread 
and Circus games," 160— Patronage of the arts, 161 — Letters 


and science ; Cassiodorus, Symmachus, Boethius, 165 — En- 
couragement of trade, 166 — The Ostrogothic polity, 169 — 
Administration of justice, 170 — Theoderic's ideal of govern- 
ment, 171— His legendary fame, 172 — A "beneficent des- 
potism ; " its merits and its weakness, 173. 


Theoderic and His Foreign Neighbours . 1 74-1 81 

Theoderic's desire for peace, 174 — Royal marriages, 175— A 
magnificent scheme, 176— Two foreign wars, 177 — Theoderic 
regent of the Visigoth kingdom, iSo— A bloodless conquest, 


Theoderic's Evil Days 182-190 

The beginning of trouble, 182— Boethius condemned, 183— 
His famous book, 184— Symmachus put to death, 184— Panic 
legislation, 185— The pope thrown into prison, 186— Death of 
Theoderic, 187— Violation of his tomb, 189— His noble cha- 
racter, 190. 


A Queen's Tkourles ..... 191-207 

An infant sovereign, 191 — Amalaswintha the queen regent, 
192— Her education of her son ; discontent of the Goths, 195 
—Justinian's schemes of conq'uest, 198— Death of Athalaric,20i 
—Amalaswintha and Theodahad, 203 — Murder of the Queen, 
204 — ^Justinian declares war, 207. 


An Unkingly King . . . . • 208-220 

Justinian's precautions, 208 — Belisarius captures Sicily, 209 — 
Theodahad's terrors, 210 — The sibyl's prophecy, 212 — Theo- 
dahad recovers confidence, 213— The Goths lose Naples, 214 
—Indignation of the Goths, 218 — Theodahad deposed and 
killed, 219. 



WiTiGis THE Unready ..... 221-233 

The new king, 222 — His mistaken policy, 222 — Queen Mata- 
swintha, 223 — Belisariu senters Rome, 224 — Witigis moves at 
last, 226 — The first skirmish, 228 — Wandilhari the Bison, 230 
— The siege of Rome begins, 232. 

The Year-long Siege ..... 234-257 

Elaborate preparations of the Goths, 234 — Belisarius not to be 
frightened, 237 — Blundering Gothic strategy, 239 — Failure of 
the assault, 242 — The garrison reinforced, 243 — Sorties of the 
Romans, 245 — A rigorous blockade. 249 — A three months' 
truce, 253 — Treachery of Witigis, 254 — The siege raised, 


Witigis in Hiding 258-267 

March of the Goths to Ravenna, 258 — They besiege Rimini, 
260 — The arrival of Narses, 261 — The Goths put to flight, 263 
— Quarrels of the Roman generals, 263 — The Goths capture 
Milan, 265 — Horrors of famine, 266. 

I'he Goths lose Ravenna .... 268-275 

Blockade of Ravenna, 268— Justinian offers terms, 269— A 
strange proposal, 270— Belisarius enters Ravenna, 271— He is 
recalled to Constantinople, 272— Refuses the Gothic crown, 
275— His character, 274— Justinian's blunder, 275. 

XX \T. 

New Gothic Victories 276-285 

Justinian's rapacity, 276— Reviving fortunes of the Goths, 277 
— Totila elected king, 279— His first victories, 280— His hu- 
manity to the conquered, 282— Discontent in Rome, 284— The 
Roman cause despaired of, 28^. 




The Failure of Belisarius .... 286-297 

Belisarius returns to Italy, 287— Why was he not successful? 
287— Continued blockade of Rome, 288— The mission of Pela- 
gius, 289— Famine in the city, 290— The citizens allowed to 
depart, 291— Rome taken by Totila, 293— The great city de- 
serted, 295— Belisarius re-enters Rome, 296— A valueless 
exploit, 297— Belisarius abandons the struggle ; his return to 
Constantinople, 297. 


The Ruin of the Ostrogoths 298-314 

Rome once more in Gothic hands, 298— Rebuilding of the ruins, 
300- The expedition of Germanus, 301— His death, 302— 
Narses sent to conquer Italy, 303— How he marched into Italy, 
304— He encamps near Tadino, 305— The great battle, 306— 
Totila's death, 3P7-His character, 308— Tela chosen kmg, 
308— Battle of Mons Lactarius ; death of Teia, 310— Invasion 
of the Franks and Alamans. 31 1— End of this Ostrogoth kmg- 
dom, 313— The exarchate of Ravenna, 314- 


The Visigoths again . • • • ^^SS^'^ 

Obscurity of the history, 315-Amalaric's marriage, 316- 
Usurpation of Theudis, 317-Theudis murdered; resigns c-t 
Theudigisel and Agila, 318-Reign of Athanagild ; his 
daughters Brunihild and Geleswintha, 3I9- 


Leovigild and His Sons. . • • • 321-32 

Leovigild's able rule, 321 -His magnificence, 322-Rebellion 
of Ermenegild, 322- His " martyrdom," 325-Leovigild and 
the Church, 326. 

xviii CONTENTS. 



The Goths become Catholic .... 327-332 

King Reccared's policy, 327 — The conversion of the Goths, 
328 — The words Visigoth and bigot ^ 329— Reccared not a per- 
secutor, 331 — His death, 332. 


A Priest-ridden Kingdom .... 333-341 

Growing power of the Church, 333— Reign of Sisebut, 334 — 
Swinthila, the " Father of the Poor," 335 — Usurpation of Sise- 
nanth, 337 — Reigns of Kindila and Tulga, 338 — Reign of 
Kindaswinth ; the clergy find a master, 339 — Reign of Rec- 
ceswinth ; twenty-three years of peace, 340. 

The Story of Wamba ..... 342-349 

Election of Wamba, 342 — Revolt of Gothic Gaul, 343— 
Treachery of Paul, 344 — Wamba subdues the rebels, 348— A 
strange ending, 349. 

Thirty Years of Decay ..... 350-357 

The origin of King Erwig, 350 — Archbishop Julian, 351 — 
Persecution of the Jews, 352 — Accession of Egica, 353— Jewish 
conspiracies, 355— Reign of Witica, 356. 


The Fall of the Visigoths .... 358-361 

King Rod eric's story a romance, 358 — The story as told by 
late chroniclers, 359— Battle of the Guadalete, 360— The 
Moors overrun Spain, 361. 

C0.\ TENTS, 



• 362-365 

The Gothic element in the Spanish nation, 362 — Goths in the 
Crimea, 363 — Last traces of the Gothic language, 364 — A 
vanished nation, 365. 


Gothic Personal Names. 


• 367-370 














RAVENNA . . . . . 






























COIN OF RECCESWINTH . . . . ". . 34^ 




More than three hundred years before the birth of 
Christ, a traveller from the Greek colony of Marseilles, 
named Pytheas, made known to the civilized world 
the existence of a people called Guttones, who lived 
near the Frische Haff, in the country since known as 
East Prussia, and traded in the amber that was 
gathered on the Baltic shores.^ For four whole 
centuries these amber merchants of the Baltic are 
heard of no more. The elder Pliny, a Roman writer 
who died in the year 79 after Christ, tells us that in 
his time they were still dwelling in the same neigh- 
bourhood ; and a generation later, Tacitus, the greatest 
of Roman historians, twice mentions their name, though 

^ This first sentence of our story contains a statement that has been 
questioned. A great German scholar, Karl Miillenhoff, maintains that 
the word Guttones, in Pliny's quotations from Pytheas, is a misreading, 
and that the people whom the ancient traveller spoke of were the 
Tcutones dwelling nea the mouth of the Elbe. But we do not think 
the conjecture is well-founded. 


he Spells it rather differently as Gotones. In his 
little book on Germany, he says — in that brief pointed 
style of his which it is so difficult to translate into 
English — " Beyond the Lygians live the Gotones 
among whom the power of the kings has already 
become greater than among the other Germans, 
though it is not yet too great for them to be a free 
people." And in his Annals he mentions that they 
gave shelter to a prince belonging to another German 
nation, who had been driven from his own country by 
the oppression of a foreign conqueror. These two 
brief notices are all that Tacitus, who has told us so 
much that is interesting about the peoples of ancient 
Germany, has to say of the Gotones. But if he 
could only have guessed what was the destiny in 
store for this obscure and distant tribe, we may be 
sure that they would have received a far larger share 
of his attention. For these Gotones were the same 
people who afterwards became so famous under the 
name of Goths, who, a few centuries later, crowned 
their kings in Rome itself, and imposed their laws 
on the whole of Southern Europe from the Adriatic 
to the Western sea. 

It is the story of these Goths that in the present 
volume we are going to relate, from the time when 
they were still living almost unnoticed in their 
northern home near the Baltic and the Vistula, down 
to the time when their separate history becomes 
blended in the history of the southern nations whom 
they conquered, and by whom they were at last 
absorbed. In many respects the career of this people 
is strikingly different from that of any other nation 


of equal historic renown. For three hundred years 
— beginning with the days of Tacitus — their history 
consists of Httle else than a dreary record of barbarian 
slaughter and pillage. A century later, the Goths 
have become the mightiest nation in Europe. One 
of their two kings sits on the throne of the Caesars, 
the wisest and most beneficent ruler that Italy has 
known for ages ; the other reigns over Spain and 
the richest part of Gaul. We look forward two 
hundred and fifty years, and the Gothic kingdoms 
are no more ; the nation itself has vanished from the 
stage of history, leaving scarcely a trace behind. 
The story we have to tell lacks many of the elements 
to which the history of most nations owes a large 
part of its interest. Except a part of a translation . 
of the Bible, the Goths have left us no literature ; the 
legends which they told about the deeds of gods and 
heroes have nearly all perished ; and even the history 
of their short period of greatness has to be learned 
from ignorant and careless writers, who have left un- 
told a great deal that we would gladly know. And 
yet the story of the Goths is not without powerful 
attractions of its own. In all history there is nothing / 
more romantically marvellous than the swift rise of 
this people to the height of greatness, or than the 
suddenness and the tragic completeness of their ruin. 
Amongst the actors in this story are some whose 
noble characters and deeds are worthy of eternal 
remembrance ; and the events which it records have 
influenced the destinies of the whole civilized world. / 
And while for an Italian, a Frenchman, or a Spaniard, 
Gothic history is important as a part of the history 


of his own country, for us who speak the Enghsh 
tongue it has a special interest of another kind, be- 
cause the Goths were in a certain sense our own near 
kindred. It is true that we are a people of mingled 
origin ; but we are to no small extent descendants 
of the Teutonic race, from which we have inherited our 
language, and to this race the Goths also belonged. 
The Gothic language, as it is known to us from Bishop 
Wulfila's translation of the Bible, is very much like 
the old-est English, though it is still more like the 
language that was spoken by the ancestors of the 
Swedes and Norwegians. There is little doubt that 
in the first century all the Teutonic peoples could un- 
derstand one another's speech, though even then there 
must ha\^ been among them some differences of 
dialect, which grew wider as time went on. Now 
since the Gothic Bible is some hundreds of years 
older than any book in any of the sister dialects, it is 
the most important help we possess towards finding 
out what the old Teutonic speech was like before it 
was developed into the different languages which we 
call English, German, Dutch, Swedish, and Danish. 
And so it comes about that scholars, who inquire 
into the origin of English words and the reasons for 
the rules of English grammar, find that they can obtain 
a great deal of light from the study of the long-dead 
Gothic tongue. 

Besides the Gothic Bible there have been preserved 
two or three other short pieces of writing in the 
Gothic language. One of these — a fragment of a 
calendar — contains the word Gut-thiuda, " people of 
the Goths." The word tJiiuda is the same as the Old- 


English f/ieod, meaning people ; and from the com- 
pound Gut-thiuda, and from other evidence, it may 
be inferred that the name which, following the 
Romans, we spell as " Goths " was properly Gutans — 
in the singular Guta.^ Like all other names of nations, 
this word must originally have had a meaning, but it 
is very difficult to discover what that meaning was. 
It has often been asserted that the name of the 
Goths has something to do with the word God (in 
Gothic guth). We might easily believe that an 
ancient people might have chosen to call themselves 
" the worshippers of the Gods ; " but although this in- 
teresting suggestion was proposed by Jacob Grimm, 
one of the greatest scholars who ever lived, it is now 
quite certain that it was a mistake. It seems now to 
be generally thought that the meaning of Gutans is 
" the (nobly) born." 

About the year 200, when they were living on the 
north shore of the Black Sea, the Gutans or Goths 
divided themselves into two great branches, the 
Thervings and the Greutungs. These two peoples 
had also other names, which are much better known 
in history. The Thervings were called Visigoths (?>., 
West Goths), and the Greutungs Ostrogoths (East 
Goths). These latter names referred at first to the 
situation which the two divisions then occupied, one 
east, the other west of the river Dniester ; but by a 
curious coincidence they continued to be appropriate 
down to the latest days of Gothic history, for when 

^ In strictness, Gut-thiuda is derived from an earlier form, Gutos 
(singular Guts), but in historic times this form was probably used only 
in compounds. 


the Goths conquered the South of Europe, the Visi- 
gpths went westwards to Gaul and Spain, while the 
Ostrogoths settled in Italy. Probably the Thervings 
and Greutungs were the only people to whom the 
name of Goths in strictness belonged. There was, 
however, a third tribe, the Gepids, whom the other 
two recognized as being, if not exactly Goths, at any 
rate, their nearest kinsfolk, and as having originally 
formed one nation with them. About the origin of 
these Gepids, the Gothic historian, Jordanes (who 
lived in the sixth century, and was, perhaps, bishop 
of Crotona in Italy) tells a curious story, founded, it 
seems, on ancient popular songs. He relates that the 
original home of the Goths was in " the island of 
Scanzia " — that is to say, in the Scandinavian penin- 
sula ; and that they came to the mainland of Europe 
in three ships, under the command of a king named 
Berig. One of the ships was a heavy sailer, and 
arrived long after the others ; and for this reason the 
people who came over in her were called Gepids, from 
a Gothic word gepanta, meaning slow. Of course 
this is not the real explanation of the name of the 
Gepids, but the story must be regarded as an ancient 
Gothic joke at their expense. Jordanes says that the 
Gepids were a dull-witted and heavy-bodied nation ; 
and as a matter of fact we generally find them lagging 
a little behind the Goths in their southward march. 

Whether the Goths did originally come from Scan- 
dinavia is a question that has been much disputed. 
The traditions of a people contained in its songs are 
not to be lightly put aside, and there is no reason to 
doubt that the Goths once inhabited the northern as 


well as the southern shores of the Baltic. But it can- 
not be said that apart from tradition there is any real 
evidence of the fact. It is true that the southern pro- 
vince of Sweden is still called Gothland ; but the 
Gautar (called Geatas by the Anglo-Saxons), from 
whom this province took its name, were not identical 
with the Goths, though doubtless nearly related to 
them. On the other hand, the island called Gothland, 
in the Baltic, was anciently called Gutaland, which 
seems to show that its early inhabitants were really in 
the strict sense Goths. And according to the Norse 
sagas and the Anglo-Saxon poets, the peninsula of 
Jutland was anciently occupied by a branch of the 
Gothic people, who were known as Hreth-gotan, or 

There were also a number of smaller tribes, such as 
the Herules, Scirians, Rugians, and Turcilings, who 
accompanied the Goths as subjects or as allies in 
their southward march, and who seem to have been 
more closely akin to them than any other of the great 
divisions of the Teutonic race. The great nation of 
the Vandals, moreover, originally the neighbours of 
the Goths on the west, who about the same time as 
they did, though by a different path, wandered from 
the Baltic to the Danube, and afterwards played an im- 
portant part in history, are said by Roman writers to 
have been identical with the Goths in language, laws, 
and manners. The Romans naturally often confounded 
the two peoples together, and not unfrequently they 
applied the name of Goths in a loose sense to all 
those Teutonic nations who invaded the southern 
lands. In this volume, however, we are concerned 


only with the fortunes of the Visigoths and Ostro- 
goths, and shall only mention these other peoples 
when they come in our way. 

The Goths are always described as tall and athletic 
men, with fair complexions, blue eyes, and yellow 
hair — such people, in fact, as may be seen more fre- 
quently in Sweden than in any other modern land. 
A very good idea of their national costume and their 
general appearance may be gained from the sculptures 
on " The Storied Column," as it is called, erected at 
Constantinople by the Emperor Arcadius in honour 
of his father Theodosius, which represent a triumphal 
procession, including many Gothic captives.^ The 
dress of the men consists usually of a short tunic with 
girdle, wide turned-down collars, and short sleeves ; 
an inner garment coming down to the knees ; and 
trousers, sometimes reaching to the ankle, and some- 
times ending just below the knees. The last men- 
tioned article of dress is often referred to as distin- 
guishing the Goths from the bare-legged Romans. 
A king or chief, who sits with two attendants on a 
car drawn by oxen, is similar in his attire to the rest 
of the captives, but his superior rank is denoted by 
the collar and skirt of his tunic being cut into an 
ornamental pattern. All the men wear long curly 
hair and long beards. Some of them are bareheaded, 
while others wear caps of somewhat fantastic shapes. 
Some of the Gothic figures in the procession seem not 
to be prisoners of war, but auxiliaries in the Roman 

^ This column was destroyed two hundred years ago, but careful 
drawings of the sculptures are contained in Banduri's " Imperium 


service, as they appear without any marks of humilia- 
tion, and several of them carry Roman armour. Their 
leaders are on horseback, and are dressed in a style 
similar to that of their captive countrymen, with the 
addition of long fur cloaks — a garment which was 
proverbially characteristic of their people. The female 
captives appear clad in long robes down to the feet ; 
some have their heads covered with kerchiefs, while 
others are bareheaded, with long streaming hair. We 
may safely rely on the general accuracy of this in- 
teresting portraiture, for at the end of the fourth cen- 
tury the appearance of the Goths had become familiar 
to all the inhabitants of Constantinople. 

That the Gothic people had many noble qualities 
was frequently acknowledged even by their enemies, 
and is abundantly proved by many incidents in their 
history. They were brave, generous, patient under 
hardship and privation, and chaste and affectionate in 
their family relations. The one great reproach which 
the Roman writers bring against them is that of faith- 
lessness to their treaties, a charge frequently made by 
civilized peoples against barbarians, and one which 
the barbarians have too often had good .reason to 
retort. In the first flush of victory they were some- 
times terribly cruel ; but on the whole there is nothing 
in their history more remarkable than the humanity 
and justice which they exercised towards the nations 
whom they had conquered ; and there are many 
instances on record in which Romans were glad to 
seek under the milder sway of the Goths a refuge from 
the oppressions of their own rulers. It is true, how- 
ever, that their history gives but little evidence of 


their possession of the gentler virtues until after their 
conversion to Christianity — an event which had un- 
questionably a very profound effect on their national 
character. The Roman clergy, by whom the Goths 
were disliked both as alien conquerors and as heretics, 
were often constrained to own that these barbarians 
obeyed the precepts of the gospel far better than did 
their own countrymen. 

We have no contemporary description of the state 
of society which existed amongst the Goths when 
they were living in their ancient abodes near the 
Baltic ; but it was probably in its main features 
similar to that of the other Teutonic peoples as 
described by Tacitus. By combining the information 
supplied by Tacitus with what we know of the manners 
and institutions of the Goths in later days, it is 
possible to arrive at some general conclusions respect- 
ing their mode of life before their southward wander- 
ings began. We must imagine them as dwelling, not 
in cities or compact villages, but in habitations scat- 
tered over the woods and plains, each with its own 
enclosure of farm land, which they cultivated with 
the help of slaves, the descendants of captives taken 
in war. Their chief subsistence, however, was not 
derived from their crops, but from their vast herds of 
cattle, which they pastured on their wide common 
lands. Their drink was mead and beer, in which, no 
doubt, like the other Teutonic peoples, they often 
indulged to excess. At their feasts they entertained 
themselves with songs relating the deeds of famous 
heroes of the past. At the season of new moon the 
men of each district assembled in the open air to 


administer justice and to make laws for themselves ; 
and from time to time the whole nation was gathered 
together to discuss great questions such as those of 
war or peace. The kings were chosen by the voice of 
the assembled people from certain great families, two 
of which, the Amalings and the Balthings, are known/ 
to us by name. The Amalings were said to be 
descended from a hero whose deeds had earned for 
him the title of Amala, " the mighty " ; the name of 
the Balthings is derived from the same root as our 
English word " bold." Of these two noble houses we 
shall hereafter have much to say, for the Amalings 
became the royal line of the Ostrogoths, while the 
Visigoths chose their kings from the Balthings. 

Of the religion of the Goths in their heathen days 
we know but little. Their native historian tells 
us that they worshipped certain beings called Anses, 
and this word is plainly the same as ^sir (plural of 
Ass or Ans), the name which the Scandinavians 
applied to the greater gods of their mythology. No 
ancient writer has mentioned the name of a single 
Gothic deity, but there is reason to believe that 
amongst their chief gods were " the Great Twin 
Brethren," corresponding to Castor and Pollux, and 
we may feel sure that, like all their Teutonic kindred, 
they worshipped Wodan, the spirit of wind and storm, 
the inspirer of poetry and wisdom. Another of their 
gods, no doubt, was Tiw, whose name shows that he 
was once the same with Dyaus, Zeus, Jupiter, the 
ancient sky-god of the Indians, Greeks, and Romans, 
and whom the Teutonic warriors invoked as their god 
of battles. Probably, also, they worshipped — under 


l-H -Si 

O ^ 



what names wc know not — the Sun-god and the 
Thunder-god, whom the Scandinavians called Baldr 
and Thorr. And there is proof that Halya, which in 
the Gothic Bible is the word for "hell," must originally 
have been the name of the goddess of the lower world. 
But which of these divinities were regarded as higher 
than the rest, and what other gods and goddesses 
were reverenced besides them, are questions that 
cannot be answered. Images of the gods (not com- 
plete statues, but pillars surmounted with the likeness 
of a human head), raised aloft on chariots, were carried 
from place to place to receive the adoration of the 
people. The sodden flesh of animals was offered in 
sacrifice, and sometimes we read that human victims 
were laid upon the altars, but whether this is fact or 
fable we cannot tell. The Gothic temples were served 
both by male and female priests, and during the war- 
like journeyings of the nation the place of a temple 
was supplied by a sacred tent. These few particulars 
are all that we really know about Gothic heathendom, 
for when the people became Christians their clergy 
strove to blot out the recollections of their old beliefs, 
and in this endeavour they succeeded only too well. 

One more fact, and that a very interesting one, is 
known respecting the early condition of the Goths. 
They possessed an alphabet of their own, the letters 
of which were called " runes." We cannot suppose, 
however, that they had any extensive written litera- 
ture, for they seem in their heathen days to have used 
no more convenient writing material than boards and 
wooden staves, on which their inscriptions were carved. 
It is not likely that the great bulk of the people knew 



how to read and write. The word " rune " h'terally 
means a secret or mystery, and that shows that the 
art of writing; was looked upon with superstitious 
awe as a sort of half-miraculous endowment. Very 
likely the knowledge of it was kept carefully in the 
hands of the priesthood, or some learned caste. The 
Goths used their runes for inscribing the names of 
their dead heroes on their tombstones, and for mark- 
ing their swords and jewels with the owner's name. 
Their wise men wrote witchcraft spells to hang up in 
the people's houses to drive away bad spirits or to 
bring good luck. Sometimes, perhaps, a new law 
micrht be carved in wood or stone to be handed down 
to later ages ; letters (very short and pithy we may 
be sure they would be) might be sent from one chief 
to another about matters too weighty to be trusted to 
word of mouth ; or a poet might now and then call 
in the aid of the rune-man to preserve the memory of 
one of his songs. Perhaps too there were some rude 
attempts at history writing, such as we have in the early 
part of the Saxon Chronicle — ^just brief memoranda of 
events put down at the time, saying that " such a 
king died ; So-and-so was made king ; Goths fought 
with Gepids ; Gepids were beaten, with great slaugh- 
ter : this or that chief was killed." But all this is 
only guessing, for only one or two Gothic inscriptions, 
and those very short ones, have been preserved. 
From the Goths, however, the Runic alphabet passed 
to the kindred nations dwelling near the Baltic, and 
it is found on hundreds of tombstones and memorial 
pillars in Scandinavia, Iceland, and the British Isles. 
Two of the characters, p and p, were adopted in Old 


{Found near Bucharest.) 


English to express the sounds of ^/z and w, for which 
the Roman alphabet supplied no proper sign. When 
people write / instead of t/ie, or y instead of t/tat 
(3ls is still sometimes done in England), they are really 
using one of the " runes " inherited from the heathen 
Goths who lived two thousand years ago. A speci- 
men of the Gothic runes may be seen in the 
accompanying engraving of a gold necklet found in 
1838 amid the ruins of a heathen temple near Bucha- 
rest, in the country where the Goths were dwelling 
early in the fourth century. The inscription has been 
read by some scholars as Gut-annoin hailag, " sacred to 
the treasure of the Goths." ^ 

The Goths certainly did not invent these letters 
for themselves, and there has been a great deal of 
discussion on the question how they got them. If 
we compare the oldest runes with the Latin letters, 
or, what is very much the same thing, with an early 
form of the Greek letters, we see at once that several 
of them are just the Latin or old Greek characters, 
altered so as to render them more convenient for 
cutting on wood. It is usually believed amongst 
scholars that the runes are of Latin origin ; but as 
the evidence seems to show that they were first used 
in the far north-east, where Roman influences could 
hardly have reached, we prefer to accept the view of 
Dr. Isaac Taylor, that they are a corruption of an 
old Greek alphabet used in certain colonies on the 
north-west coast of the Black Sea. But how the 
knowledge of this alphabet was carried to the Goths 

* In recent drawings the first word looks like gutaniowi, which has 
no known sense. One would expect to find the name of a god. 


dwelling SIX hundred miles away, and what caused 
the changes in the sounds expressed by some of the 
letters, are questions we have no means of answering. 

Before we leave the subject of this chapter, there is 
one more point that must be touched on, because it 
affects our understanding of some parts of the suc- 
ceeding history. In ancient times the countries north 
of the Danube mouths were inhabited by a people 
called Getes (in Latin Getae). You may remember 
that the poet Ovid was sent to live among this people 
when Augustus banished him from Rome. Now in 
the third century after Christ the Goths came and 
dwelt in the land of the Getes, and to some extent 
mingled with the native inhabitants ; and so the 
Romans came to think that Goths and Getes were 
only two names for the same people, or rather two 
different ways of pronouncing the same word. Even 
the historian Jordanes, himself a Goth, actually calls 
his book a Getic history, and mixes up the traditions 
of his own people with the tales which he had read 
in books about the Getes. In modern times some 
great scholars have tried to prove that the Getes 
really were Goths, and that the early territory of the 
Gothic nation reached all the way from the Baltic to 
the Black Sea. But the ablest authorities are now 
mostly agreed that this is a mistake, and that when 
the Goths migrated to the region of the Danube it 
was to settle amongst a people of a different race, 
speaking a foreign tongue. 

As late as the middle of the second century 
(unless, as is not unlikely, the geographer Ptolemy 
copied his information from much earlier writers) the 



" Gythones " or Goths were still dwelling along the 
eastern bank of the Vistula. A few years later they 
began their great southward journey, and left their 
ancient homes to be occupied by new possessors, the 
kinsmen of the Slavonians and Lithuanians. 



The emigration of a settled people from the 
country which it has occupied for hundreds of years, 
is a very different sort of thing from the movements 
of mere wandering hordes like the Huns or the Tar- 
tars. It is true the Goths were only barbarians, and 
the ties which bound them to their native soil were 
far less complex and powerful than those which affect 
a civilized community ; and no doubt they had often 
made long expeditions for plunder or conquest into 
the adjoining lands. But still we may be sure that 
the resolution to forsake their ancient homes, and to 
seek a settlement in unknown and distant regions, 
must have cost them a great deal of anxious delibe- 
ration, and that they must have been impelled to it 
by very powerful motives. What these motives were 
we can only faintly guess. It can scarcely be supposed 
that the Goths were driven southward by the invasion 
of stronger neighbours, for the peoples who afterwards 
occupied the Baltic shores seem to have been cer- 
tainly their inferiors in warlike prowess. Most likely 
it was simply the natural increase of their population, 

Traditions op the wandering. 23 

aided perhaps by the failure of their harvests or the 
outbreak of a pestilence, that made them sensible 
of the poverty of their country, and led them to cast 
longing eyes towards the richer and more genial lands 
further to the south, of which they had heard, and 
which some of them may have visited. 

Our only information about the path along which 
they travelled is derived from their own traditions, as 
recorded by Jordanes in the sixth century. A great 
deal of the story told by that historian, however, 
seems to be either his own guesswork, or to be taken 
from the history of the Getes and Scythians. Putting 
all this aside, we find that the Goths, Gepids, Herules, 
and some other kindred peoples, united into one great 
body, first wandered southward through what is now 
Western Russia,' till they came to the shores of the 
Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and then spread 
themselves westward to the north bank of the 
Danube. As they went their numbers were in- 
creased by the accession of people of Slavonic race, 
whom they conquered, or who joined them of their 
own accord. One of the nations whom they over- 
came, the Spali, is mentioned by name. About these 
early wanderings Jordanes tells two legendary stories, 
evidently derived from Gothic popular ballads. One 
of these relates that the Goths, led by their king, 
Filimer, the son of Guntharic, had to cross a great 
river into a beautiful and fertile country, called Ovim 
or Ocum. When the king and most of the people 
had passed over in safety, the bridge broke down and 
part of the host was left behind in a sort of enchanted 
land, surrounded by a belt of marshes through which 


no traveller had since been able to find his way ; but 
those who passed near its borders ages afterward could 
often hear the lowing of cattle and the distant sound 
of Gothic speech. The other story embodies the 
hatred felt by the Goths for their enemies the Huns. 
King Filimer, it was said, expelled from the camp the 
women who practised magic arts — the Halirunos, as 
they were called, that is to say, the possessors of the 
"rune" or secret of Halya, the goddess of the lower 
' world. Banished into the deserts, these women met 
with the evil spirits of the waste, and from the unholy 
marriage of witches and demons sprang the loath- 
some savages whom the Goths had afterwards so 
much reason to dread. 

The real history of the Goths begins about the 
year 245, when they were living near the mouths of the 
Danube under the rule of Ostrogotha [Austraguta], 
the first king of the Amaling stock. Ostrogotha was 
celebrated in tradition for his " patience " ; but in what 
way he displayed that virtue we are not informed, for 
history tells only of his victories. Whether on ac- 
count of his patience or his deeds in war, his fame 
was widely spread, for one of the oldest of Ango- 
Saxon poems mentions him as *' Eastgota, the father 
of Unwen." The name of this son is given by Jordanes 
as Hunuil, but probably the Anglo-Saxon form is 
the right one. 

There is evidence that about twenty years before 
this time the Goths had become allies of the Romans, 
who paid them a yearly sum of money to defend the 
border of the empire against the Sarmatian barbarians 
who lay behind them. But in the reign of the Roman 


emperor Philip the Arab, this payment was stopped, 
and King Ostrogotha crossed the Danube and plun- 
dered the Roman provinces of Moesia and Thrace. 
The Roman general Decius, who afterwards became 
emperor brought an army against them ; but the 
Goths retreated safely across the Danube, and it is 
said that large numbers of the Roman soldiers de- 
serted to the barbarians, and offered to help them to 
make another attack. The Gothic king collected an 
army of thirty thousand men, partly belonging to his 
own people and partly to other barbarian nations, and 
sent them over the river under the command of two 
generals, named Argait and Guntharic, who ravaged 
the province called Lower Moesia, and laid siege to 
its capital, a city which the great emperor Trajan had 
built, and named Marcianopolis in honour of his 
sister Marcia. The inhabitants were glad to bargain 
with the Goths to raise the siege on receiving a heavy 
payment in money, and then the barbarians went 
back into their own land. 

After this the kingdom of Ostrogotha was attacked 
by the Gepids, who had separated themselves from the 
Goths, and under their king, Fastida, had conquered 
the Burgunds, another Teutonic people. They now 
demanded that Ostrogotha should give them a por- 
tion of his territory. The " patient " king tried hard 
to persuade them not to make war on their own 
brethren ; but he was not patient enough to grant 
what they required, and the two nations met in con- 
flict near a town called Galtis. The fight was long 
and terrible ; " but at last," says Jordanes, sneering 
at the " sluggish " Gepids, " the more vigorous nature 


of the Goths prevailed," and Fastida had to retire 
within his own dominions. 

Ostrogotha died about the year 250, and was suc- 
ceeded, not by his son Unwen or Hunuil (who, how- 
ever, became the ancestor of later Gothic kings), but 
by a King Cniva, who was not an Amaling at all. 
The new chief at once engaged in an expedition 
across the Danube into Moesia and Thrace. He sent 
out several bodies of his army to plunder different 
parts of the country, while he himself besieged the 
town of Nicopolis (now Nikopi on the Yantra), 
whose name, " City of Victory," preserved the memory 
of a battle in which Trajan had been successful 
against the barbarians. The emperor Decius, who 
had been elected by the army a year before, was a 
man of great energy and of noble character, and he 
at once hurried off to relieve the town. When the 
Goths heard that the Roman army was approaching, 
they abandoned the siege, and made their way 
through the passes of the Balkan mountains to attack 
the great city of Philippopolis. Decius followed them 
in haste, but the Goths unexpectedly turned on their 
pursuers, put them to flight, and plundered their 
camp. The barbarians were now able to carry on 
the.siege of Philippopolis undisturbed. The inhabi- 
tants made a brave defence, and slew many thousands 
of their assailants. But at last they were obliged 
to yield ; the town was taken, and it is said that a 
hundred thousand persons were massacred. A vast 
quantity of plunder fell into the hands of the Goths, 
besides many prisoners of noble rank. Amongst 
these was Priscus, a brother of the late emperor 


Philip, whom the Goths persuaded to assume the title 
of emperor, and to conclude a treaty of peace with 

Meanwhile the emperor had not been idle. He 
rallied his scattered forces, and placed garrisons along 
the Danube and at the passes of the Balkans. The 
Goths felt how much they had been weakened by 
their losses in the long siege, and sent messages to 
the Romans, entreating that they might be allowed 
to return home in safety on giving up their plunder 
and their prisoners. But Decius thought he had the 
victory in his own hands, and demanded that they 
should submit without conditions. The Goths deter- 
mined to fight for their freedom. The two armies 
encountered each other near a little town of Moesia, 
which the barbarians called Abritta, and the Romans, 
Forum Trebonii. Scarcely had the battle begun 
when Decius's eldest son, Herennius, whom he had 
made joint emperor, fell wounded by an arrow. A 
crowd of barbarians rushed upon him, and plunged 
their spears into his body. When the soldiers saw 
their young commander slain, their courage at first 
gave way. The bereaved father urged them on with 
the words : " The loss of one soldier makes little dif- 
ference to the commonwealth." Then, overwhelmed 
with grief, he rushed into the thick of the conflict, re- 
solved either to avenge his son or to share his fate. 
The fisrht was fierce and bloodv. Two divisions of 
the Goths were routed ; the third line, protected by a 
morass, awaited the attack of the Romans, who, un- 
acquainted with the ground and burdened with their 
heavy armour, were utterly defeated. The emperor 


was killed, and his body was never found. Never before 
had the Roman Empire known so sad a day as this, 
which saw the ruin of a great army, and the death by 
barbarian hands of one of the worthiest emperors who 

ever ruled. 

Broken and disorganized, the Roman army offered 
no further resistance to the Goths, who carried devas- 
tation over the provinces of Mcesia, Thrace, and 
Illyria. The new emperor, Trebonianus Gallus, 
found that it was hopeless to try to drive them out 
by force of arms, and he agreed to leave them in 
possession of their prisoners and their booty, and to 
pay them a large sum of money yearly on condition 
that they should leave the Roman territories un- 



There was a terrible outcry amongst the Romans 
when it became known that the emperor Gallus had 
agreed to bribe the Goths to keep the peace. Every- 
body said that Gallus was a traitor, and some people 
even accused him of having intentionally caused the 
ruin of Decius by his bad advice. To make matters 
worse, a great plague broke out all over the empire, 
caused, the Romans fancied, by the anger of the gods 
at the treachery of their emperor. And before long 
it turned out that the disgraceful bargain that Gallus 
had made had not even answered its purpose, for a 
portion of the Goths, faithless to their engagements, 
continued to ravage the provinces of Illyria. They 
were defeated by a general named ^milianus, who 
assumed the title of emperor. Gallus was murdered 
by his own soldiers, who joined the army of the 
usurper ; but soon afterwards he, too, was assassi- 
nated, and the empire came into the hands of Valerian 
and his son Gallienus. 

The reigns of these two emperors, which ex- 
tended from the year 253 to the year 268, were 
full of misfortunes for the empire. The Germans 


threatened it on the west ; on the east there 
were troubles with Persia ; and all the while news 
kept coming from the provinces that one portion 
or another of the army had rebelled, and set up 
an emperor of their own. To grapple with these 
difficulties needed a great ruler at the head of affairs. 
Valerian was a brave and good man, but he foolishly 
went on an expedition against Persia, and in the year 
260 was taken prisoner, and never came back. When 
Gallienus heard that his father was a captive, he took 
the matter very coolly, and his courtiers, instead of 
being disgusted with his heartlessness, only compli- 
mented him on his "resignation." He was not a 
coward, nor was he either cruel or vicious ; but he 
cared for nothing but amusing himself When he 
heard of any great misfortune that had happened in 
some distant province, he used to make some foolish 
joke about it, and then went on writing pretty verses, 
or completing his collections of pictures and statues. 
Such w^as the sovereign who ruled the Roman world 
at a time when, more than ever in its past history, 
the manifold perils that threatened it demanded the 
energies of a hero and a statesman. 

During these dreary fifteen years the history of the 
Goths is a frightful story of cruel massacres, and of 
the destruction and plunder of wealthy and beautiful 
cities. One branch of the people obtained possession 
of the Crimea, sailed across the Black Sea, and took 
the great city of Trebizond, from which they carried 
away an abundance of spoil and a vast multitude of 
captives. A second expedition resulted in the capture 
of the splendid cities of Chalcedon and Nicomedia, 


and many other rich towns of Bithynia. The cities 
were strongly fortified, and possessed ample garrisons, 
but such was the wild terror inspired by the Goths 
that resistance was hardly ever attempted. It is, 
however, the third of these plundering raids that is 
most worthy of attention, not only because it was 
conducted on a larger scale than the two previous ones, 
but because of the interest which we feel in the classic 
lands over which it extended. A fleet of five hundred 
vessels, conveying a great army of Goths and Herules, 
sailed through the Bosphorus arid the Hellespont. On 
their way they destroyed the island city of Cyzicus, 
and made landings at many points on the west coast 
of Asia Minor. Amongst other deeds of wanton 
devastation, they burnt the magnificent temple of 
" Diana of the Ephesians," one of the seven wonders 
of the ancient world, with its hundred lofty marble 
columns and its many beautiful statues, the work of 
the greatest sculptors of Greece. Then, crossing the 
^gean Sea, they anchored in the port of Athens ; 
and now that city, which had given birth to the finest 
poetry, philosophy, and art that the world had ever 
known, became the plunder of barbarian pirates. 

Whatever havoc the Goths may have made at 
Athens, at least they did not burn the city, and we 
know that they left many noble buildings and works 
of art to be destroyed long after by the Turks. 
About their doings here we have only one anecdote. 
The Goths, it is said, had collected into a great heap 
all the Athenian libraries, and were going to set fire 
to the pile, dreading, perhaps, lest the magical powers 
dwelling in the foreign " runes " should work some 


mischief on the invading host. But there was among 
them one aged chief, famed for his wisdom, who 
persuaded them to change their purpose. " Let the 
Greeks have their books," he said, "for so long as 
they spend their days with these idle toys we need 
never fear that they will give us trouble in war." 
Although this story rests on no very good authority, 
there is no reason why it may not have been true. 
Perhaps the Goth was not altogether wrong. A 
people that has a vigorous national life gains fresh 
strength from the labours of its scholars and thinkers ; 
but when a nation cares for nothing but books, its 
absorption in literature only hastens its decay, and 
the literature itself becomes pedantic and trifling, 
and gives birth to little "that the world would not 
willingly let die." So it was amongst the Greeks 
of the third century. But even while they were 
in Athens the Goths were taught that learning did 
not always make men cowards. For an Athenian 
named Dexippus, a man of letters whose studies 
had made him mindful of the ancient greatness of 
his country, collected a band of brave men and 
burned many of the Gothic ships in the harbour of 

But there were not many Greeks like Dexippus, 
and the Goths and Herules met with little resistance 
as they ranged over the land, enriching themselves 
with the spoils of many a wealthy city, once great in 
arts and in war. When they had exhausted the 
plunder of Greece they marched to the Adriatic, and 
it seems they were thinking of invading Italy. But 
the emperor Gallienus, at last roused from his in- 


action, came to meet them at the head of his army. 
The barbarian chiefs began to quarrel amongst them- 
selves, and one of them, Naulobatus, with a large 
body of Herules, deserted his countrymen, and 
entered the Roman service. Naulobatus was gladly 
received by the emperor, who bestowed on him the 
rank of consul, the highest honour that could be 
gained by a Roman subject. The main body of the 
Goths separated into two bands. One of them went 
back to the east coast of Greece, and there took 
shipping, and after landing at Anchialus in Thrace, 
got back in safety to the settlements ^of their people 
at the north of the Black Sea. The other band made 
their way into Mcesia, and continued to ravage that 
country for a year with impunity, because the quarrels 
between the Roman generals rendered any effectual 
resistance impossible. 

One of these generals, however, was a brave and 
able man named Claudius, and when, in March, 268, 
Gallienus died by an assassin's hand, Claudius was 
declared emperor in his stead. He at once set to 
work to reorganize the Roman armies, and to clear 
the empire of the northern barbarians. His task 
seemed, indeed, a desperate one, for he had to 
grapple with a new invasion, more terrible than 
any that the empire had hitherto suffered. The 
Goths dwelling near the mouths of the Dniester, 
excited by the tales which their countrymen had 
brought them about the wealth and fruitfulness of 
the southern lands, had resolved to conquer the 
Roman Empire, and make it their settled home. 
They were joined by a multitude of Slavonic tribes, 


whom they had either subdued or had persuaded to 
enter into alliance with them. Through the Black 
Sea and the Hellespont sailed a vast fleet, conveying 
an army numbering three hundred thousand warriors, 
accompanied by their wives and children. The in- 
vaders landed at Thessalonica, and hearing of the 
approach of Claudius, hastened to meet him, glorying 
in the hope of an easy victory. The battle that took 
place at Naissus (now Nissa, in the middle of Turkey) 
was, perhaps, not a victory for Claudius ; some writers 
say he was beaten. But the Goths lost fifty thousand 
men ; and what was more, they lost their confidence 
in their own strength. Battle after battle succeeded, 
and soon the mighty host of the invaders was utterly 
broken. Thousands of Gothic prisoners were sold 
into slavery ; many of the young men were taken to 
serve in the imperial armies ; and the shattered 
remnant of the people fled into the recesses of the 
Balkan mountains, where their numbers were lessened 
by the cold of winter and the outbreak of a dreadful 
plague. In this plague, however, Claudius himself 
died, in the spring of the year 270. In memory of 
his victories the Roman people gave him the surname 
of Gothicus ; and his name ought ever to be held in 
honour as that of one of the few great conquerors 
whose exploits have been of lasting benefit to the 
human race. It is terrible to think what would have 
been the consequences to the world if the Gothic 
enterprise had then been successful. The South of 
Europe would have been depopulated by fierce and 
lawless massacre ; the masterpieces of ancient art and 
literature would have perished, and the traditions of 


many ages of civilization would in a great measure 
have been blotted out. It is true that by the victories 
of Claudius the triumph of the Goths was only de- 
ferred. But it was deferred until a time when they 
had become Christian, and in some degree civilized, 
and when they had learned to use their victories with 
gentleness and wisdom. When they came to subdue 
the empire, it was no longer as savage devastators, 
but as the saviours of the Roman world from the 
degradation into which it had sunk through the vices 
of a corrupt civilization, and through the misgovern- 
ment of its feeble and depraved rulers. Although a 
foreign conquest always must be productive of some 
evil, yet, on the whole, the Gothic rule in Italy, while 
it lasted, was such a blessing to the subject people 
that we may well feel sorry that it came to an un- 
timely end. 

The dying emperor recommended as his successor 
Aurelian, one of his generals, whom the soldiers who 
served under him knew by the nickname of ** Your 
hands to your swords!" The army accepted the 
choice, and Aurelian ruled the empire well and wisely 
for five years. As soon as the new emperor had been 
proclaimed the Goths again tried their fortune in war, 
under a chief named Cannabaudes. The battle was 
indecisive, and the Roman losses were heavy, but the 
Goths had suffered so much that they were glad to 
accept an offer of peace. Aurelian, hearing that he 
was v/anted to repel a German invasion of Italy, 
thought it wise to allow them favourable terms. 
It was agreed that they were to be granted a 
free retreat into Dacia, and that province, including 


what is now the kingdom of Roumania and the 
eastern part of Hungary, was abandoned to their 
sovereignty, the native inhabitants being invited to 
cross the Danube into Moesia. In return for these 
concessions the Goths were to furnish a body of two 
thousand horsemen to the Roman armies, and as 
security for their faithfulness a number of the sons 
and daughters of Gothic nobles were entrusted to the 
care of the emperor, who caused them to receive the 
education of persons of rank, and afterwards employed 
the youths in honourable offices in his own service, and 
gave the maidens in marriage to some of his principal 
officers. The result of these measures was that the 
Goths lived in unbroken alliance with the Roman 
Empire for fifty years, learning the arts cf peace from 
the natives of Dacia, and gaining new strength for the 
time when they were again to distinguish themselves 
by deeds of arms. 



During the fifty years' peace the history of the 
Goths is a blank. No chronicler has preserved even 
the name of any of their kings, or a single anecdote, 
true or fabulous, about their doings in that tranquil 
time. Probably we have lost little by this silence of 
the historians ; for the story of an uncivilized people 
does not contain much that is worth telling, when 
there are no battles or migrations to record. We 
should like to know, however, on what sort of terms 
the Goths lived with the native Dacians, for there is 
good evidence that the whole of that people did not 
avail themselves of Aurelian's invitation to emigrate 
into Moesia, but continued in their ancient homes 
under Gothic rule. There is some reason for thinking 
that they were not reduced to slavery, but that the 
Goths learned to respect the superior civilization of 
their neighbours, and that the native inhabitants and 
the new settlers gradually became united into one 
people. If this were so, we can understand how ijt 
came to pass that, as we have already seen, the 
Gothic historian of the sixth century could reckon 
the heroes and sages of ancient Dacia among the 
ancestral glories of his own nation. 


But we must not suppose that Dacia was the only 
country occupied at this time by the Goths. Vast as 
were the numbers of the host that sailed from the 
northern shores of the Black Sea in the year 269, 
a large Gothic population still remained behind. 
Whether or not . the Goths of Southern Russia were 
included in the treaty which Aurelian made, they 
seem at any rate to have abstained from any invasion 
of the Roman Empire throughout the fifty years of 
which we are speaking. The Goths of Dacia and 
their eastern kinsmen were distinguished by the old 
names of Visigoths and Ostrogoths. How far they 
were respectively the descendants of those who had 
borne these names in earlier times we cannot tell. 
The Ostrogoths seem to have formed a united nation, 
while the Visigoths were independent of them, and 
were divided into separate tribes under different 
chieftains, without any common head. 

Quiet and uneventful as were these fifty years in 
the history of the Gothic people, they were full of 
stirring incidents in the history of the Roman Empire. 
In the course of this period the Roman world was 
ruled by several emperors of uncommon ability, 
amongst whom was one man of surpassing genius, 
named Diocletian, who introduced important changes 
into the government. But of these it is not necessary 
here to speak, nor of the civil wars and the struggles 
with the Franks and other nations, which the empire 
had to sustain. 

When the Goths first broke their long peace with 
Rome, it was in the reign of the emperor Constantine 
the Great. Two of the actions of this emperor had 


a profound effect on all succeeding history. He 
established Christianity as the state religion of the 
empire ; and he removed the seat of government from 
Rome to his new city of Constantinople. Hence- 
forward we have to remember that although the 
empire is still called Roman, the ancient capital of 
the world from which that empire took its name is 
now only its second city. 

The first conflict between the Goths and Constantine 
took place in the year 322, one year before the defeat 
of his colleague and rival Licinius made him undi- 
vided sovereign of the empire. The Visigoths and 
Ostrogoths, in one united army, joined by Slavonic 
tribes from the far east, had made an attack, under 
the command of a king named Aliquaca [Alhwakars] 
on the Roman provinces south of the Danube. The 
emperor defeated them in three successive battles, 
and compelled them to submit. But he thought it 
well to offer them honourable terms of surrender, and 
the result showed that he was wise in so doing ; for 
when in the following year he fought his decisive 
battle against Licinius at Hadrianople, he was assisted 
by the army of Aliquaca, consisting, we are told, of 
forty thousand men. 

* Eight years after this, however, Constantine had 
again to meet the Goths as enemies. It seems that 
the Vandals, or a part of them, were then living in 
what is now Western Hungary, divided from the 
Gothic territory by the river Theiss. Quarrels broke 
out between the two neighbouring peoples, and the 
Goths invaded the Vandal territory in overwhelming 
numbers. The Vandals appealed for help to the 


emperor, who listened to the prayer, and marched 
in person to chastise the aggressors. When the Goths 
heard of his approach, they crossed the Danube led 
by their two kings Araric and Aoric, and hastened to 
meet the Roman army. In the first battle Constan- 
tine underwent a serious defeat — for the first time in 
his life. But in the succeeding battles of the cam- 
paign the victory was all on the side of the Romans. 
The emperor was helped by the descendants of the 
Greek colonists in the Crimea, who were no doubt 
glad of the opportunity to revenge themselves on their 
old oppressors. The Goths were thoroughly humbled, 
and were glad to beg for peace. It was always Con- 
stantine's policy — in dealing with barbarians at least — 
to try by kindness to make friends of his vanquished 
enemies ; and the Gothic kings and nobles received 
handsome presents and special marks of honour. 
Once more a treaty of alliance was made between the 
Goths and the Romans, and by way of security for 
his faithfulness, King Araric had to leave his eldest 
son as a hostage in the emperor's hands. 

After this war was ended the Goths seem not to 
have troubled the Roman Empire for more than thirty 
years ; but in other directions they made important 
conquests. When Araric died, the people chose a 
new king, who was of another family. His name was 
Geberic, and he was descended from a line of famous 
heroes. We know nothing about his father Hilderic 
or about Ovida and Nidada, his grandfather and 
great-grandfather, but from the way in which Jor- 
danes mentions them it is plain that their names and 
deeds must in his time have been very familiarly 


known from the old Gothic ballads. King Geberic 
determined to accomplish the task, in which his 
predecessor had failed, of dislodging the Vandals. 
Constantine did not say him nay, for the Vandals, 
ungrateful for the help which the Romans had given 
them, had themselves been making plundering raids 
into the Roman provinces. On the banks of the 
river Marosh a battle was fought, in which Wisumar, 
the Vandal king, was killed, and his army was routed 
with great slaughter. The conquered Vandals once 
more appealed to Constantine, and he gave them 
permission to settle in Pannonia and other parts of 
the empire. The Goths took possession of the de- 
serted territory ; and being thus freed from enemies 
on the west, they soon began to engage in schemes 
of aggression against their eastern neighbours. But 
of these we shall have to speak in the next chapter. 



We come now to a reign which marks a great 
epoch in the history of the Gothic people. Erman- 
aric, who seems to have been chosen king about the 
year 350, was a great warrior, Hke many of his pre- 
decessors ; but his pohcy, and the objects for which 
he fought, were markedly different from theirs. The 
former kings of the Goths had been content to con- 
duct expeditions for the sake of plunder into the 
territories of neighbouring nations, or to lead their 
subjects in search of new homes in other lands. But 
the Gothic people had now once more acquired a 
settled territory ;* and bitter experience had compelled 
them to renounce the hope of conquests in the more 
genial and wealthy countries of the south. These 
new conditions gave a new direction to their warlike 
ambition. Ermanaric made no attempt to invade 
the provinces of the Roman Empire ; but he resolved 
to make his Ostrogothic kingdom the centre of a 
great empire of his own. The seat of his kingdom 
was, as tradition tells us, on the banks of the Dnieper. 
We have a long list of the peoples whom he subjected 
to his sway ; but the names have been so blundered 
by the copyists that it is useless to repeat them here. 


We can however form some notion of the vast extent 
of his empire from the fact that amongst the nations 
he subdued were the Esthonians, Hving far away on 
the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Another of the 
peoples whom he conquered was the Herules, who, as 
we have already seen, had once formed one nation 
with the Goths, but had before this time made them- 
selves independent, and were living under the rule of 
a king called Alaric — a name which a generation 
later became famous as that of the great hero of the 
Visigoths. A Roman historian compares Ermanaric 
to Alexander the Great ; and many ages afterwards 
his fame survived in the poetic traditions of Germans, 
Norsemen, and Anglo-Saxons. These traditions are 
more fabulous than historical ; they bring together 
as contemporaries persons whom we know to have 
lived at periods a hundred years apart ; but we can 
gather from them that while Ermanaric was feared 
and admired as a great conqueror and an able ruler, 
he was bitterly hated as a cruel and selfish tyrant. 

Ermanaric was the first king since Ostrogotha who 
belonged to the Amaling family. Down to this time, 
the Gothic kings seem to have been chosen by free elec- 
tion from any of the noble families, and we have no 
proof that a son ever succeeded his father. But 
henceforward the kingship of the Ostrogoths became 
hereditary among the descendants of Ermanaric. 

During this time the Visigoths appear to have been 
practically independent, divided into separate tribes 
ruled by their own "judges " or chieftains ; but, while 
these chieftains seem to have been free to make war 
and peace on their own account, it is probable that in 


theory they acknowledged the supremacy of the 
Ostrogothic king. 

But the great empire of Ermanaric, which, like that 
of Napoleon, had been created by conquest in one 
lifetime, was doomed, like Napoleon's, to an inglorious 
end. For in the king's old age there appeared upon 
the scene a new enemy, with whom he was unable to 
contend. The Tartar people of the Huns had for- 
saken their ancient camping grounds in Asia, and in 
overwhelming numbers poured westward over the 
plains of Russia. Nation after nation was subdued as 
they advanced, and compelled to join the devastating 
horde. Their approach inspired amongst the subjects 
of Ermanaric a wild panic, which was caused, not 
merely by their vast multitude, and by the fame of 
their unresisted career of conquest, but by the super- 
stitious horror which their strange and terrible appear- 
ance excited. Dwarfish, and, as it seemed, deformed 
in figure, but of enormous strength, their swarthy and 
beardless faces of frightful ugliness (" with dots instead 
of eyes," says Jordanes), and rendered still more hideous 
by tattooing, it is no wonder that they were regarded 
by the Goths rather as demons than as men. A 
Roman writer compares their aspect to that of the 
roughly hewn caricatures of human faces which were 
carved on the parapets of bridges. The aged king of 
the Goths tried to urge his people to resistance, but 
they were paralysed by terror, and the subject tribes 
gladly hailed the invasion as an opportunity to throw 
off the yoke of the detested tyrant. When Ermanaric 
saw that his empire was falling to pieces, he is said to 
have taken his own life in his despair. This seems to 


be the true story of his end ; but the account given 
by Jordanes does not mention- the suicide, and mixes 
up the history with a romantic legend, which appears 
in many differing forms in German and Scandinavian 
traditions. According to one of the later versions of 
this legend, the tyrant had sent his son to woo for 
him the beautiful Swanhilda, the daughter of a queen 
named Gudrun. But the son, prompted by an evil 
counsellor, won the maiden for his own bride. Erma- 
naric, " the furious traitor," as an Anglo-Saxon poet 
calls him, cunningly disguising his anger, enticed 
Swanhilda by fair words into his own power, and then 
in his fierce revenge ordered her to be torn in pieces by 
wild horses. Her brothers (named Sorli and Hamdhir 
in Norse story, Sarus and Ammius according to 
Jordanes) attacked Ermanaric, and cut off his hands 
and feet, leaving him to linger in misery and help- 
lessness until his hundred and tenth vear. 

Ermanaric died in the year 375, and the Ostrogoths 
were subdued by the Hunnish king Balamber. For 
a whole century they remained subject to the Huns, 
even fighting on the side of their masters against 
their own kinsmen the Visigoths. Of the history 
of the Ostrogoths during this time of humiliation 
there is not much to tell. They did not submit to the 
savage invaders quite without a struggle. One large 
body of them, led by two generals, Alatheus [Alhthius] 
and Safrax, taking with them a boy of Amaling 
descent named Wideric, whom they chose as their 
king, emigrated westward soon after Ermanaric's 
death, and joined the army of the Visigoths, where 
we shall hear of them again. A few years later, one 


portion of the Ostrogoths who were left behind, chose a 
king named Winithari [Winithaharyis], a grandson of 
Ermanaric's brother, and tried to throw off the Hunnish 
yoke. While the Huns were busy with new conquests, 
Winithari overran the country of the Antae, a 
Slavonic people whom the Huns had made tributary ; 
and the Gothic historian confesses without shame that 
his countrymen crucified the king of the Anta^ and 
seventy of his nobles. But the rest of the Ostrogoths, 
under Hunimund, the son of Ermanaric, continued to 
be subject to the Huns, and joined the army of 
Balamber to crush the revolt of their countrymen. 
In two battles Winithari was victorious, but in the 
third he was defeated and killed. Balamber married 
an Amaling princess named Waladamarca, and the 
Ostrogoths submitted quietly to his sway. They were 
allowed, however, to choose their own kings, who 
assisted the Huns in their conquests. Hunimund 
famed for his beauty, won victories over the German 
nation of the Sueves. His son Thorismund conquered 
the Gepids, and was killed " in the flower of his 
youth," by a fall from his horse. 

We are told that the Ostrogoths were so stricken 
with grief for the death of their young hero that they 
chose no other king for fort}^ years. Of course we can- 
not believe this ridiculous tale, which seems to have 
been taken from the Gothic ballads. The plain prose 
account of the matter would probably be, that the 
Ostrogoths were unable to choose a king who was 
approved of by their Hunnish masters, so that the 
latter kept the government in their own hands. The 
young prince Berismund, whose right it was to sue- 


ceed his father Thorismund, was naturally discontented 
at being excluded from the throne, and went away to 
join the Visigoths, who were then settled in Gaul. 
It seems he thought that the Visigoths would 
make him their king ; but he found that the throne 
was already occupied, and he kept his Amaling descent 
a secret. The king of the Visigoths receiv^ed him 
kindly, and promoted him to high rank on account 
of his bravery ; but during his lifetime it was never 
known who he was. 

When the forty years were ended — about the year 
440 — the Huns once more allowed the Ostrogoths to 
have a king of their own. His name was Walamer, 
and he was the son of Wandalhari, and the grandson 
of King Winithari. He had two brothers, Theudemer 
and Widumer, to whom he entrusted the care of por- 
tions of his kingdom, and who succeeded him when he 
died. The unity and the mutual affection of these three 
brothers are described by Jordanes, in almost poetical 
words, as having been something singularly beautiful. 
During the greater part of Walamer's life, the three 
brothers were faithful servants of the Huns, and their 
subjects fought, against their own kin, in the armies 
of Attila. But, when Attila died in 453, his sons 
quarrelled for supremacy, and the Ostrogoths regained 
their freedom. The Huns made an effort to re- 
conquer them, but were defeated by Walamer in a 
decisive battle. On the day when the news was 
brought to Theudemer of his brother's triumph, a 
son was born to him This " child of victory " was 
the great Theoderic [Thiudareiks], who was destined 
to fulfil the omen of his birth, and to raise the Ostro- 



gothic nation to the highest position among the people 
of the Teutonic stock. The name of Theoderic is the 
most glorious in Gothic history ; but before we begin 
his story we must turn back a hundred years, and 
inquire what the Visigoths had been doing while 
their eastern brethren were the humble vassals of a 
horde of Asiatic savages. 



We told you in the last chapter that during the 
third quarter of the fourth century the Visigoths 
formed part of the great empire of the Ostrogoth 
Ermanaric. In the earlier part of the famous con- 
queror's reign, while his power was still at its height, 
it is very probable that they were his subjects in 
reality as well as in name. But when the Ostrogothic 
kingdom began to be invaded by the Huns, and the 
conquered nations were claiming their freedom, the 
Visigoths seem to have been allowed to manage their 
own affairs as they liked, and to wage war or make 
treaties on their own account, without waiting for the 
approval of the Amaling king. 

The Visigoths were divided into three tribes or 
petty kingdoms, which were ruled by " judges " named 
Athanaric, Frithigern, and Alawiw. Of these three 
chieftains Athanaric was the most powerful, and the 
other two seem to have recognized his claim to leader- 
ship. He had inherited his power from his father 
Rothestes, who had been a faithful ally of the 
Romans, and had received the honour of a statue or 
a memorial column at Constantinople. Athanaric is 
said to have been a brave warrior, but his history 


perhaps gives more evidence of his cunning than it 
does of his bravery. 

In order to understand the story of the Visigoths 
under their "judges," we must take a glance at the 
events that had been happening at Constantinople. 

When Constantine the Great died in 337, he was 
succeeded first by his three sons, and afterwards by 
his nephew Julian, who is called the Apostate, because 
he forsook Christianity, and during his two years' 
reign set up heathenism as the religion of the 
empire. After Julian's death, the Romans thought 
they had had enough of the house of Constantine, 
and chose as their emperor Jovian, an officer of the 
imperial household. But he only lived a year after 
he was raised to the throne, and then the diadem was 
bestowed on Valentinian, the most successful general 
of his time. 

Valentinian, though uneducated, was a man of 
strong mind and resolute will ; but he perceived that 
the government of the Roman world was a task too 
heavy for one man to manage. He therefore deter- 
mined to share the supreme power with his brother 
Valens, whom he sent to Constantinople as emperor 
of the East, while he kept for himself the rule over 
the western provinces. Unfortunately Valens, though 
a brave soldier and a well-meaning man, had little 
decision of character or knowledge of men ; and just 
at this time the Eastern empire needed a strong and 
skilful ruler even more than did the empire of the 
West. To make the matter worse, Valens did not 
even know Greek, which was the language spoken by 
the greater part of his subjects. It was not long 


before the emperor found himself entangled in fearful 
difficulties ; and his weak and vacillating policy — 
doing a thing one day and undoing it the next, losing 
precious time in long deliberation, and then acting 
rashly after all — brought on a succession of calamities 
that came very near destroying the Eastern empire 

Since the time of Constantine, the Visigoths had 
faithfully observed the treaty which they had made 
with that emperor, and had continued to supply their 
promised number of men to the Roman armies. 
Athanaric, so far as we can discover, honestly in- 
tended to continue the policy of friendship with Con- 
stantinople, but he made a great mistake which cost 
him and his people dearly. A cousin of the emperor 
Julian, named Procopius, rebelled against Valens, 
expelled him from Constantinople, and got himself 
proclaimed emperor. He called on the Visigoths to 
fulfil their treaty engagements ; and Athanaric, re- 
garding Procopius as the real emperor, at once sent 
over thirty thousand men into Thrace. Apparently 
Athanaric did not go himself, for his father (so at 
least he said afterwards) had made him swear never 
to set foot on Roman soil. We can imagine how the 
thirty thousand would enjoy the opportunity of return- 
ing, actually under imperial sanction, to their old 
sport of plundering the Thracian provincials. But 
while they were ravaging the country, never dreaming 
of resistance, they suddenly learned that Procopius 
was dead, and that Valens was again master at Con- 
stantinople. Instead of having earned the gratitude 
of the Roman Empire, they had made it their enemy. 


By cutting ofif their supplies and provisions, and pre- 
venting them from retreating across the Danube, the 
generals of Valens managed, without very much 
fighting, to compel the Goths to surrender at dis- 
cretion. The Romans spared their lives, but sold the 
common soldiers into slavery, and sent the chiefs to 
live as prisoners of war in distant parts of the empire. 

When Athanaric heard of this disaster, he sent 
ambassadors to Constantinople ; but it was not by 
any means to beg humbly for mercy from the con- 
queror. Instead of that he assumed an air of injured 
innocence. His envoys bitterly reproached the as- 
tonished Romans with an unprovoked breach of the 
treaty between the two nations. All that the Visi- 
goths had done, they said, was to render their 
promised assistance to the Roman Empire. To be 
sure they had in their simplicity supported the wrong 
emperor ; but instead of being angry with them for 
their mistake Valens ought to have been thankful to 
them for their good intentions ! They therefore de- 
manded that their prisoners of war should at once be 
set at liberty. 

One would suppose that this audacious demand 
would have been at once rejected with laughter ; but 
Valens seems at first to have been half inclined to 
agree to it. However, he wrote for advice to his 
brother Valentinian, who, as might have been ex- 
pected, told him to go and attack Athanaric in his 
own country. Valens did so, and the war lasted 
three years. The Romans won most of the battles, 
but they did not make much progress towards sub- 
duing the country, and they were glad at last to agree 


to a peace. The cunning Athanaric consented that 
the Gothic chieftains should be deprived of the 
pensions they had been accustomed to receive from 
the Romans ; but he managed to procure an ex- 
ception in his own favour, and to get himself recog- 
nized by the Romans as king of all the Visigoths. 
When the conditions of peace were agreed upon, 
Valens wished that the treaty should be ratified at a 
personal interview between himself and Athanaric, 
for whom he seems to have "conceived a good deal of 
respect. Athanaric, however, pleaded that the oath 
he had taken to his father prevented him from cross- 
ing the Danube into Roman territory, and he 
threatened that he should consider the peace broken 
if the emperor set foot in Dacia. He proposed that 
the meeting between Valens and himself should take 
place in boats in the middle of the Danube. There 
is something amusing in the clever way in which 
Athanaric continued to avoid everything that looked 
like a confession of defeat. Valens must have felt 
that the barbarian was laughing at him, but he did 
not venture to refuse the offered arrangement. The 
treaty was confirmed, and the emperor, as well as 
Athanaric, had to give hostages as security for its 
faithful observance. The result of these negotiations 
was anything but a brilliant success for the ruler of 
Constantinople, but of course he celebrated a triumph 
when he got home, and the Court scribes and orators 
talked as if Valens had been another Claudius 

For the next two or three years (the peace was 
concluded in the year 369), Athanaric was busy per- 


secuting the Christians (who, as we shall find in the 
next chapter, were becoming numerous among the 
Visigoths), and in a petty war with Frithigern, who 
was defeated and driven out of the country, though 
he was soon reinstated by the Romans. However, in 
the year 376 the judges of the Visigoths had made 
up their quarrels, and Athanaric was acting as com- 
mander-in-chief of the armies of the whole nation, 
which were massed on the west bank of the Dniester, 
with the Huns facing them on the other side. As 
the enemy had no boats, Athanaric thought himself 
safe from immediate attack. But one moonlight 
night a body of the Huns made their horses swim 
over the river, and surprised the Gothic camp. Ath- 
anaric had to retreat hastily to the west of the river 
Pruth, where there were some deserted Roman earth- 
works which he meant to repair, and by means of 
them to offer defiance to the foe. But the Visigoths 
were stricken with panic, and would think of nothing 
but flight. Frithigern and Alawiw sent ambassadors 
to the emperor, begging him to let them cross the 
Danube. When Athanaric saw that he could not 
persuade the people to offer any resistance, he went 
away with a few hundred men towards the north- 
west, into a country which the Roman writers call 
Caucalanda, a name which is evidently meant for 
hauhaland, the Gothic form of our English word 
Highland, and probably denotes the mountain region 
of Transylvania. 

And so Athanaric disappears from our story for 
four or five years, during which time his rival Frithi- 
gern was practically king of all the Visigoths. 



We must now turn aside for a little while from the 
direct course of our history to tell the story of a Goth 
who, in the midst of all the confusion of this age of 
turbulence and bloodshed, spent his life in quietly 
doing good, and whose influence on the future history 
of his nation was quite as powerful as that of any of 
the soldiers and statesmen of his time. Milton ex- 
pressed a sad truth when he said that the victories 
of peace are " less renowned " than those of war ; but 
although the name of Wulfila^ the Bishop is not so 
famous as those of many men far less worthy to be 
remembered, it will no doubt be familiar to many 
readers to whom the names mentioned in the pre- 
ceding chapters were altogether unknown. 

It seems that Wulfila was born about the year 310 
or 311, but where his birthplace was in the wide tract 
of country then inhabited by the Goths, we do not 
know. It is said that he was not of pure Gothic 
descent, for his grandfather was a native of Cappa- 
docia — one of those unfortunate prisoners whom the 
Goths carried away from their homes when they 
ravaged Asia Minor about the year 267. However 

' Often written Ulphilas. 

wulfila's education. 57 

this may be, his parents gave him a Gothic name, 
and his whole life proves that he was a thorough 
Gothic patriot at heart. 

You may remember that after their king Araric 
had been defeated in battle, the Goths made a treaty 
of alliance with the emperor Constantine ; and in the 
year 332 they sent ambassadors to the imperial city 
to settle the conditions of peace. How it came to 
pass that the young Wulfila accompanied this em- 
bassy we can only guess. Perhaps the grandson of 
the Cappadocian captive had learned to speak Greek 
as well as Gothic in his own home, and so was useful 
as an interpreter ; or perhaps he may have been one 
of those young Goths who, along with King Araric's 
son, were to be left in the emperor's hands as security 
for the treaty being faithfully kept. Whether by his 
own choice or not, we know that he remained at 
Constantinople, and received a good education, learn- 
ing to speak and write Latin as well as Greek. 

But Wulfila was like Moses, who, though " learned 
in all the wisdom of the Egyptians," and living in 
comfort and honour in Pharaoh's court, could not be 
content while his own people were in misery. Whether 
Wulfila was a Christian before he went to Constanti- 
nople we do not know ; certainly there had been 
some few Christian Goths before his time. But if 
he was not already a Christian, he very soon became 
one, and his mind was filled with a burning desire to 
go as a missionary to convert his countrymen from 
their cruel heathen ways. With this end in view he 
became a priest, and when he was thirty years old 
the bishops assembled at the Council of Antioch 


ordained him bishop of the Goths dwelling north of 
the Danube. 

For seven years after this Wulfila was preaching 
the gospel to his countrymen in Dacia, and gained 
vast numbers of followers in spite of bitter opposition 
from Athanaric. The persecution at last became so 
fierce that Wulfila wrote to the emperor Constantius 
asking him to let the Christian Goths have a home in 
the Roman lands, where they could be safe from the 
fury of their oppressors. The permission was granted, 
and Wulfila, with many thousands of his converts, 
crossed the Danube, and settled near Nicopolis 
in Moesia, at the foot of the Balkan mountains. 
Constantius had a great admiration for Wulfila, and 
often used to speak of him as " our second Moses." 
The people whom Wulfila led into Moesia (the Lesser 
Goths, as they were called), continued to dwell there 
for some centuries, peacefully cultivating their lands, 
and taking no part in the fierce wars that raged all 
around them. 

But all the Christian Goths did not leave Dacia 
along with Wulfila, and their numbers grew so fast 
that about the year 369 Athanaric thought it neces- 
sary to resort to cruel measures in order to suppress 
them. His rival, Frithigern, however, was either a 
Christian himself, or at any rate favourable to the 
Christians, and when Athanaric, as we described in 
our last chapter, went away into the Transylvanian 
" highlands " there was no longer any resistance to 
the spread of the gospel. In a very few years nearly 
the whole people, Visigoths and Ostrogoths alike, 
learned to call themselves Christians. 


It may be well to explain here that those Christians 
from whom Wulfila had received his religious teach- 
ing at Constantinople belonged to what was called 
the Arian sect : that is, they differed from the general 
body of the Church in believing that the Son of God 
was a created being. The Goths, who were converted 
to Christianity through the preaching of Wulfila and 
his disciples, naturally became Arians too. It is 
important to remember this, because many of the 
troubles of the Goths in later years arose from the 
fierce mutual hatred that existed between Arians and 
Catholics. The two parties often thought each other 
worse than heathens, and persecuted each other 
cruelly. As for Wulfila himself, however, he cared 
a great deal less about the harder questions of 
theology than he did about the plain and simple 
truths which help men to act kindly and justly 
towards one another, and to look up with love and 
reverence to the Giver of all good. 

For three and thirty years Wulfila lived among 
his people in Moesia, teaching the newly converted 
heathens the lessons of Christian faith and life, and 
training clergymen to carry on his work after his 
death. But in addition to these labours he had 
imposed on himself an important and difficult task, 
which must have occupied a large portion of his life. 
He perceived clearly that if Christianity was to take 
deep root amongst the Goths, and to continue to 
be held by them in its purity, it was necessary that 
they should be able to read the Scriptures in their 
own tongue. And therefore he set himself to work 
to produce a translation of the Bible into Gothic. 


2\O^^^feo^lh^Q%(BS[lIN10ST5\[N](i» (^S^h 

Qjp(BQ iM ij^n B^ ir^r rs^M ^1B)Q ^^[ji] M (io j^iMii;^ 


{Codex Argeufeus.) 

Mark vii. 3-7. 


Before, however, Wulfila could give his countrymen 
the Bible, he had to teach them to read, and, in fact, 
to reduce their language to a written form. It is true 
that, as we have already said, the Goths had already 
an alphabet of their own. But Wulfila probably 
thought that the Runic alphabet was better forgotten, 
because of the heathenish things that were written in 
it ; at all events he chose to write his Gothic Bible 
in Greek letters — large capitals, such as were com- 
monly used in books at that time. There were, 
however, some Gothic sounds which could not be 
correctly expressed by means of the Greek alphabet, 
and for these Wulfila adopted the Runic characters, 
altering their shapes, however, so as to give them as 
far as possible the general appearance of Greek letters. 
Our earliest manuscripts of the Gothic Bible were 
written about 150 years after Wulfila's time, and 
probably the forms of the letters had before then 
undergone a little change, but it is still quite easy to 
see that the Gothic alphabet is merely the Greek 
alphabet with half a dozen new signs. 

Wulfila's translation was a wonderful piece of work 
for the age in which it was written. It cannot have 
been very easy, in the fourth century, for a Goth to 
acquire such a thorough knowledge of Greek as to 
enable him accurately to understand the text of the 
Scriptures ; and to make a faithful translation out of 
one language into another requires a mind trained in 
habits of exact thinking. But there are very few 
passages in which Wulfila appears to have misrepre- 
sented the sense of his original. Many of the words 
which occur in the Bible had nothing properly corres- 


ponding to them in Gothic, because they denoted 
objects or actions peculiar to civilized life, or ideas 
belonging to Christian ways of thinking, which were 
quite strange to the minds of people who had been 
brought up in heathenism. The way in which Wulfila 
got over these difficulties is often very curious. The 
word he uses for " writing," for instance, meant pro- 
perly " painting " or " marking," and to express the 
meaning of " reading " he used the word " singing "— 
no doubt because in reading the Bible it was cus- 
tomary to adopt a chanting tone. Our Anglo-Saxon 
ancestors expressed these ideas in a different way : 
they retained the old words that had been used in the 
days when people carved the runes on pieces of wood. 
Our word " write "' properly means to scratch or 
engrave, and our word " read " meant originally to 
guess or give the answer to a riddle, just as " rune " 
itself meant a secret or mystery which it required a 
clever man to unravel. Wulfila seems to have avoided 
these expressions on purpose, because he regarded 
Christian writing as altogether a different kind of 
thing from heathenish rune-carving. 

Here is the Gothic Lord's Prayer as it is in Wulfila's 
Bible, with a word-for-word translation, which will 
show how much, even yet, our language resembles 
that of the Goths. The English words that are in 
italics are of the same origin as the Gothic words 
which they translate. 

Atta unsar thu in himinam, weihnai namo thein. Qimai 

Father our thou in heaven^ be hallowed name thine. Come 

thiudinassus theins. Wairthai wilya theins, swe in himina yah in 

kingdom thine. Be done will thine, as [j^?] in heaven also in 


airthai. Hlaif unsarana thana sinteinan gif uns himma daga. 

earth. Bread {loaf] our the continual give us this day. 
Yah aflet uns thatei skulans siyaima, swa swe yah weis 

And forgive {off-let'\ us that which debtors we are, so as also we 
afletam thaim skulam unsaraim. Yah ni bringais uns in 
forgive {pff-lef] the debtors our. And w-ot bring us in 

fraistubnyai, ak lausei uns af thamma ubilin. Unte theina ist 
temptation, but loose us from [of] the ei'iL For thine is 
thiudangardi, yah mahts, yah wulthus in aiwins. 
kingdom, and might, and glory z« ages. 

We do not know how much of the Bible Wulfila 
translated into Gothic. One ancient writer says that 
he translated all but the books of Kings, which he left 
out because he thought that the stories of Israel's 
wars would be dangerous reading for a people that 
was too fond of fighting already. It is quite in accor- 
dance with what we know of Wulfila's character that 
he should have felt some uneasiness about the effect 
that such reading might have on the minds of his 
warlike countrymen ; but one would have thought 
that the books of Joshua and Judges would have been 
even more likely to stimulate the Gothic passion for 
fighting than the books of Kings. Probably the truth 
is that Wulfila did not live to finish his translation, 
and no doubt he would leave to the last the books 
which he thought least important for his great purpose 
of making good Christians. 

The part of Wulfila's Bible that has come down to us 
consists of a considerable portion of each of the Gos- 
pels, and of each of St. Paul's Epistles, together with 
small fragments of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. 
Six different manuscripts have been found. The most 
important of these was discovered in the sixteenth 
century in a monastery at Werden in Germany. After 


havingbeen in the possession of many different owners, 
it was bought in 1662 by the Swedish Count de la 
Gardie, who gave it the binding of solid silver from 
which it is commonly called the Codex Argenteus, 
or Silver Book ; it is now in the University of 
Upsala,,and is regarded as one of the choicest trea- 
sures possessed by any library in Europe. It is 
beautifully written in letters of gold and silver on 
purple parchment, and contains the fragments of the 
Gospels. Of the other five manuscripts one was dis- 
covered in the seventeenth century in Germany, and 
the rest in Italy about seventy years ago. 

Wulfila visited Constantinople in the year 360, 
and was present at a church council held there. In 
381, when he was seventy years old, he was sent for 
by the emperor Theodosius to dispute with the 
teachers of a new sect that was gaining many con- 
verts among the Goths. But almost as soon as he 
had arrived at Constantinople he was seized with 
the illness of which he died. His last act was to 
write out, as his " testament," a profession of his Chris- 
tian faith, which his disciple Auxentius has affec- 
tionately preserved. 



At the end of our sixth chapter, we left Frithigern 
and his Visigoths on the north bank of the Danube, 
in continual dread of an attack from the Huns, and 
eagerly awaiting the reply of the emperor Valens to 
their request for permission to cross the river and be- 
come subjects of the Roman Empire. Valens was in 
Asia (probably at Antioch) where the ambassadors of 
Frithigern presented themselves before him. They 
told him of the terrible danger to which their country- 
men were exposed, and promised that if they were 
granted a home in Thrace the Visigoths would become 
his faithful and obedient subjects. The answer, yes 
or no, had to be given at once : there was no time 
for hesitation. To do the advisers of Valens justice, 
it was not altogether " with a light heart " that they 
came to the decision which well-nigh involved the em- 
pire in irretrievable ruin. Some of them, at any rate, 
clearly perceived the danger that there was in admitting 
such a vast and unruly multitude into the Roman terri- 
tories. Others, however, urged that the empire was in 
need of men ; its population had for a long time past 
been growing smaller ; and here was a golden oppor- 


tunity of adding at one stroke a million of subjects to 
the dominions of their sovereign. After much anxious 
discussion, the prayer of the Visigoths was granted. 
Possibly the experiment might not have turned out so 
badly if the Goths, when they had been admitted into 
the empire, had been treated with generosity and con- 
fidence. But first to accept them as subjects, and 
then to let them be goaded into rebellion by every 
sort of oppression and insult, was a course that could 
only end in the most frightful calamity. 

Orders were sent to the Roman governors on the 
banks of the Danube to make preparations for 
bringing the Visigoths across the river, and when 
a sufficient number of boats had been collected, 
the great immigration began. Day after day, from 
early morning till far into the night, the broad 
river was covered with passing vessels, into which 
the Goths had crowded so eagerly that many of 
them sank on the passage, and all on board were 
lost. At first the Romans tried to count the people 
as they landed, but the numbers were so vast that 
the attempt had to be given up in despair. 

If the Goths at first felt any thankfulness to the 
Romans for giving them a safe refuge from their 
savage enemies, their gratitude was soon turned into 
fierce anger when they got to know that their children 
were to be taken from them, and sent away into 
distant parts of the empire. The reason for this cruel 
action was that the Romans thought the Goths would 
keep quiet when they knew that their children might 
be killed if a rebellion took place ; but it only filled 
the minds of the barbarians with a wild longing for 


revenge. Valens thought he could make himself safe 
against his new subjects by ordering the fighting men 
to be deprived of their weapons ; but the Goths, who 
were rich with the plunder they had taken in many 
wars, found that it was easy to bribe the Roman 
officers to let them keep their arms. 

When Valens heard that the Visigoths, instead of 
being a defenceless multitude, were a powerful army, 
and that they showed signs of fierce discontent, he 
felt that he had made a great mistake. He tried to 
remedy the mischief by ordering that the Goths 
should be divided into several bodies, and removed to 
different parts of the empire. Just at this time those 
Ostrogoths who had not submitted to the Huns asked 
the emperor that they too might be allowed to cross 
the Danube and become Roman subjects. Of course 
the request was refused ; but the Ostrogoths took no 
notice of the refusal, and finding an unguarded place, 
they passed the river, and joined themselves to the sub- 
jects of Frithigern. 

When this vast multitude of strangers had been 
brought into the Roman provinces, it was needful to con- 
sider how they should be supplied with the necessaries 
of life. Valens had given orders that arrangements 
should be made to furnish the Goths, at reasonable 
prices, with the provisions they required, until they 
should be able to maintain themselves by agriculture 
and the rearing of cattle. But unfortunately the 
Roman governors of Thrace, Lupicinus and Maximus, 
were avaricious men, who saw in the distresses of the 
Goths a chance of making themselves rich by ill- 
gotten gains. These men kept the food supply in 


their own hands, and doled it out to the Goths at 
famine prices, forbidding every one else to sell to 
them more cheaply. Pressed by hunger, the miser- 
able people had to give a slave as the price of one 
loaf, or ten pounds of silver for an animal, and they 
were often compelled to feed on the flesh of dogs or 
of animals that had died of disease. Some of them 
even sold their own children, saying it was better to 
let them go into slavery to save their lives than to keep 
them where they would die of hunger. 

During all these terrible hardships, Frithigern suc- 
ceeded in keeping his followers from breaking out 
into revolt, and even from relieving their wants by 
plunder of their neighbours. He seems to have been 
really anxious to maintain friendship with the Romans 
if he could ; and no doubt, also, he thought of the 
Gothic boys and girls who were kept as hostages in 
distant lands. But all the time he took care that the 
Goths should be ready to rise as one man, if the 
burden of oppression should become too heavy to be 

The occasion was not long in presenting itself 
Lupicinus had invited Frithigern and the other chiefs 
to a banquet at Marcianopolis, and they were accom- 
panied by a few attendants into the palace, the Gothic 
people being encamped outside the walls of the city. 
While the feast was going on, an uproar arose at the 
city gates between the Roman soldiers and the hungry 
Goths, who saw before them a market well supplied 
with food, which they were prevented from buying. 
Some of the soldiers were killed, and news of what 
had happened was brought secretly to Lupicinus, who, 


awakened out of a drunken sleep, gave orders for the 
slaughter of Frithigern's followers. Frithigern heard 
the outcry, and soon guessed what had happened. 
With rare presence of mind, he quietly said that it 
was needful for him to show himself to his countrymen 
in order to put a stop to the tumult ; and beckoning to 
his companions, he boldly led the way through the 
streets and out at the city gates, while the Romans 
looked on, too much astonished to offer any opposition. 
When the chiefs reached the camp, they told their 
story to their countrymen, and announced that the 
peace with the Romans was at an end. The Goths 
broke into wild shouts of applause as they heard this 
longed-for declaration. " Better," they said, " to perish 
in battle than to suffer a lingering death by famine." 
Very soon the sound of the Gothic trumpets warned 
the garrison of Marcianopolis that they must prepare 
for war. 

Lupicinus hastily collected such an army as he 
could, and went out to meet the foe ; but the Romans 
were beaten, and their cowardly general fled for his 
life before the battle was decided, and took refuge 
in the city. And now the Goths made amends 
for their past privations by plundering the innocent 
country people of the Thracian provinces. They 
were joined by some Gothic regiments in the im- 
perial service, who had been driven into rebellion 
by the foolish insolence of the Romans ; and the 
slaves who worked in the Thracian gold-mines, set 
free by the flight of their cruel masters, were glad to 
serve the Goths as guides, and to show them where 
the stores of food and of treasure had been hidden. 


We need not say very much about the events 
which immediately followed. There was one great 
battle at a place called " The Willows," which was 
a victory for neither side, but resulting in terrible 
slaughter to both, so that long afterwards the field 
was white with the bones of the unburied dead ; 
another great battle on the Hebrus, won by the 
Roman General Sebastian, who carried off a vast 
quantity of spoil, greater than could be stored in 
the city of Hadrianople or in the surrounding plains ; 
and several less important conflicts, in which some- 
times one side was victorious and sometimes the other. 
But in spite of all this fighting the Gothic army 
kept growing stronger and stronger, being joined 
continually by new bands — Taifals, Scythians, Ostro- 
goth deserters from the Huns, and even by some 
of the Hunnish hordes themselves. 

In the summer of 378 Valens came back to Con- 
stantinople, and found himself the object of universal 
indignation. Whenever he appeared in public he was 
assailed by shouts of abuse for his folly in letting 
the Goths into the empire, and for his cowardice 
in not having marched in person to subdue them. 
Valens felt keenly that there was some truth in 
these reproaches. He knew that he had made a 
terrible mistake ; and though he also knew that he 
had meant well, and that he was no coward, he had 
not the strength of mind to be indifferent to popular 
clamour. What added to the bitterness of his feeling 
was the knowledge that the people were making 
comparisons between himself and his nephew Gratian, 
the brave and accomplished young emperor of the 

THE emperor's RASHNESS. yt 

West, who had been winning brilliant victories over 
the Germans on the Rhine and the Upper Danube. 
Valens resolved to risk everything in a desperate 
attempt to repair the consequences of his own error. 
He remained only a few days in the capital, and 
set out to take the command of the army, which was 
encamped under the walls of Hadrianople. 

While the emperor and his generals were discussing 
their plans for the management of the war, there 
arrived at the camp one of Gratian's generals, named 
Richomer, who brought a letter saying that his 
master would soon be on the spot at the head of 
his army, and begging Valens on no account to risk 
a battle until Gratian had joined him. Well would it 
have been for Valens if he had listened to this advice ; 
but his flatterers urged him not to let his nephew 
share in the glory of a victory which, they repre- 
sented, he was sure to win ; and he decided to hurry 
on his preparations so that the battle might be over 
before Gratian arrived. 

The Romans had everything in readiness for the 
attack, when a Gothic Christian priest (some think 
it must have been the bishop Wulfila, but this is not 
very likely) accompanied by some other Goths of 
humble rank, presented themselves before Valens, 
bearing a letter from Frithigern, in which he offered 
to enter into a treaty of peace, on condition that the 
Goths should be recognized as masters of Thrace. 
In addition to this official despatch, which had no 
doubt been sent with the consent of the Gothic 
assembly, the priest had brought a private note from 
Frithigern, in which he informed Valens that he 


feared the Goths would not remain faithful to such 
a treaty if they got what they wanted too easily, and 
advised the emperor to make a display of force so 
that it might not appear that his concessions were the 
result of weakness. What the Gothic chief meant 
by these tactics it is not easy to see : the historian 
who tells this curious story intimates that the 
Romans could make nothing of these contradictory 
messages, and sent the ambassadors home without 
any reply. 

It was on the morning of the 9th of August, 378, 
that Valens, leaving his treasure within the walls of 
the city, marched from Hadrianople to attack the 
enemy. After the army had proceeded for eight 
miles, under a blazing sun, they came unexpectedly 
in sight of the waggons of the Goths. The 
troops were hastily drawn up in battle array, while 
the barbarians broke out into the fierce chant with 
which they were accustomed to animate their courage 
before an engagement. The sudden advance of the 
Romans took Frithigern by surprise. The Ostro- 
goths under Alatheus and Safrax were many miles 
away in search of plunder, and had to be hurriedly 
sent for. In order to delay the fighting until his 
allies arrived, Frithigern sent to the Romans what 
we should call a flag of truce, pretending that he 
wished to make terms for surrender. The Romans 
fell into the trap, and answered that they were willing 
to agree to a parley if the Gothic chief would send 
some of his highest nobles as the bearers of his 
proposals. The messenger returned saying that 
Frithigern was willing to come and negotiate in 


person, provided that some officer of distinguished 
rank was previously sent to the Gothic camp as a 
hostage. This unexpected offer was hailed by the 
Romans with delight, and they at once began to 
discuss whom they should send. The unanimous 
choice fell on the tribune Equitius, commandant of 
the palace, and a relative of Valens ; but he stoutly 
refused the dangerous office, saying that he had 
escaped from barbarian captivity once in his life, and 
there was no knowing what desperate thing the Goths 
might do if they got him in their power. The dis- 
pute was settled by Richomer, who nobly volunteered 
to accept the unwelcome task himself. During all 
these long discussions, the Roman soldiers were kept 
under the burning sun, tormented by thirst and 
hunger, while the Goths remained comfortably in 
their encampment. 

Richomer had already started on his way to the 
Gothic camp, when he was called back by the news 
that the battle had already begun. Some Iberian 
troops in the Roman service, tired of the delay, had 
made an attack on the enemy without waiting for 
orders. They were immediately routed; and just 
at that moment the long-waited for Ostrogoth cavalry 
burst (" like a thunderbolt," says a contemporary 
writer) upon the Roman army. Frithigern caused 
the trumpets to be sounded for the attack ; the 
Roman cavalry was soon dispersed, and the infantry, 
surrounded and forced into a dense mass so that they 
could not use their weapons, and worn out by 
hunger and fatigue, were slaughtered by thousands. 
The Roman general Victor, perceiving that the 


emperor was in a position of danger, and forsaken 
by his guards, went to his relief ; but when he 
reached the place Valens was not to be found. 
Victor and the other generals then left the field ; but 
the massacre of the Romans went on until it was 
interrupted by the darkness of night. 

For many days after the battle parties of the 
Goths were constantly on the field, plundering the 
dead, so that none of the Romans ventured to make 
a search for the body of the emperor. What his 
fate had been was not known until many years after- 
wards, when a young Roman, who had escaped from 
captivity among the Goths, related how he had been 
one of a party of youths who had conveyed Valens, 
wounded by an arrow, to a cottage on the battle- 
field, where they tried to attend to his wound. The 
enemy attempted to burst open the door, but failed, 
and, not knowing who was inside, set fire to the 
cottage. All the occupants perished except the 
narrator of the story, who jumped out of the window. 
The Goths were bitterly disappointed when they 
heard from the survivor that they had thrown away 
the chances of capturing a Roman emperor alive, and 
securing for themselves his ransom. Whether this 
tale was true or not, it was at any rate very generally 
believed. Several Catholic writers of the fifth and 
sixth centuries, who imagined that Valens had been 
the cause of the Goths becoming Arians, have shown 
the ferocity of their religious hatred by the remark 
that it was a just doom that he who had caused the 
souls of so many Goths to suffer eternal fire should 
be burned alive by Gothic hands. 


For the second time in history a Roman emperor 
had perished amid the total ruin of his army, in 
conflict with the Goths. But even the day of Abritta 
had been less terrible than was the day of Hadria- 
nople. Two-thirds of the Roman army lay dead on 
the field, and amongst the slain were two generals 
of great renown, Sebastian and Trajanus, two high 
officers of the palace, Equitius and Valerian, and 
thirty-five tribunes. A contemporary historian says 
that no such disaster had befallen the Roman arms 
since that of Cannae. We can hardly doubt that 
if the Goths had been united and disciplined, and 
had known how to use their victory, the Eastern 
empire would have come to a speedy end. But this 
was not to be ; the Goths could win battles, but the 
art of conquest they had yet to learn. 



On the morning after the battle, the victorious 
Goths at once began to lay siege to the city of 
Hadrianople, where they had got to know that the 
imperial treasure had been deposited. But " fighting 
with stone walls" requires more patience than the 
barbarians had yet learned to exercise. When their 
first assaults on the place were repulsed with heavy 
loss, they gave up the attempt in disgust, and after 
two days marched away to besiege Constantinople. 
Their first attack was so violent that they had nearly 
succeeded in forcing the gates, and perhaps if their 
fury had continued unabated the imperial city would 
have soon become their prey. But a band of Arab 
horsemen in the Roman service issued from the city, 
and a sharp conflict took place. The skirmish was 
indecisive, but a panic was created among the Goths 
by the sight of an act of cannibalism on the part of 
one of the Arabs, who sucked the blood of his slain 
adversary. The thought of having to fight with 
enemies of such inhuman ferocity chilled their courage, 
and after continuing the siege half-heartedly for a 
short time, they abandoned it as hopeless. Carrying 
away a large quantity of plunder from the suburbs 



outside the city walls, they wandered away to the 
north, and spread themselves once more over the 
provinces from the Black Sea to the Adriatic, which 
had so often before been the scene of their ravages. 

We do not know much about what the Goths may 
have done in Thrace and lUyria during the two years 
following their great victory. The Roman writers 
complain bitterly of the havoc and devastation which 
they wrought, but they tell us no details. But surely 
the worst deeds of the barbarians can scarcely have 
equalled in cruelty and treachery the infamous act 
by which the civilized and Christian Romans revenged 
themselves on innocent persons for the defeat at 
Hadrianople. It will be remembered that on several 
occasions when treaties were made between the Goths 
and the Romans, a number of the children of Gothic 
nobles were given up to the Romans, as security for the 
faithful observance by the Goths of their engagements. 
As these young "hostages" had usually been sent away 
to the East, it happened that at the time we now 
speak of most of the cities of Asia Minor contained 
a considerable population of Gothic youths. The 
war minister of the Eastern empire, Julius, had heard 
rumours that great excitement prevailed amongst 
these young Goths at the result of the battle of Had- 
rianople, and that many of them had openly expressed 
disloyal sentiments. No successor had yet been ap- 
pointed in the room of Valens, and Julius obtained 
from the Senate of Constantinople a vote authorizing 
him to do whatever he thought necessary for the good 
of the State. He then sent to the governors of the 1 
Asiatic provinces secret instructions that the Gothic i 


youths should be induced, by promises of gifts and 
honours, to assemble on a certain day in the market- 
places of their respective cities. When they were 
collected together, the place of meeting was to be 
surrounded by troops, and the defenceless Goths were 
to be unsparingly massacred. This dre'adful plan was 
successfully carried out, and its author was praised to 
the skies for having delivered the Eastern provinces 
from a terrible danger. It is true that these young 
Goths had been given up by their people as hostages, 
and the forfeiture of their lives, when the treaty had 
been broken, was "in the bond ; " but such an excuse 
does little to lessen the guilt of Julius, or of the 
Roman public which applauded his treacherous deed. 
Happily the ruler who was chosen to succeed Valens 
was a man of a spirit very different from that of 
Julius. It was in January, 379, that the great Theo- 
dosius was appointed by Gratian emperor of the 
East In his reign of sixteen years he proved once 
more, what every really great emperor since Aurelian 
had proved before him, that a policy of justice and 
kindness could convert even the turbulent Goths into 
faithful allies and subjects of the empire. 

But before Theodosius could venture to do anything 
to conciliate the Goths, it was necessary that he should 
make them feel that he was to be feared. He had 
to reorganize his shattered army, and to teach his 
soldiers to overcome the terror which had been in- 
spired by the crushing defeat of Hadrianople. His 
policy was not to risk any great battle, but to fight 
only when he had such advantages of position and 
numbers as made victory certain, so that his own 


troops grew gradually bolder, and the Goths became 
disheartened, as they saw that the gains of the con- 
test, if not singly very important, always fell to the 
Roman side. The quarrels among the barbarians 
did much to help the Roman cause, and from time 
to time Gothic chiefs who thought themselves slighted 
by Frithigern deserted to the emperor, who gave 
them abundance of honours and rewards. One of 
these deserters, named Modahari, was entrusted with 
a high command in the imperial army, and gained 
for the Romans the greatest victory they obtained in 
the war. 

Frithigern seems to have died sometime in 379 or 
380, and in the latter year Athanaric crossed the 
Danube. On what ground he considered himself 
released from the oath by which he had professed to 
be prevented from treading Roman soil, we do not 
know, but very likely this had only been an excuse- 
He was soon acknowledged by the greater portion of 
the Visigoths as their king, and his first act was to 
make a treaty of peace with the emperor. Theo- 
dosius invited him to Constantinople, and entertained 
him splendidly. The sights which he beheld there 
impressed him with profound astonishment. " Often," 
he said, " have I been told of the grandeur of this 
city, but I never believed that the stories were true. 
The emperor is a god on earth, and whoever resists 
him is guilty of his own blood." Athanaric did not 
long survive his arrival at Constantinople. He died 
in January, 381, and was honoured with a royal 
funeral and a costly monument. 

During the next two years those Visigothic tribes 


which had not joined in the treaty made by Athanaric 
were induced one after the other to make their sub- 
mission to the emperor. In the year 386, the band 
of Ostrogoths who had formerly followed Alatheus 
and Safrax, and were now led by a chief named 
Audathaeus, had returned to Dacia after having made 
a raid into the north and west of Germany, and had 
attempted to cross the Danube into Thrace. Their 
fleet of boats, however, was unexpectedly attacked by 
the Roman soldiers ; great numbers of the invaders 
perished by the sword or by drowning, and those 
who succeeded in reaching the southern bank at once 
surrendered to the Romans. 

The sovereignty of Theodosius was now acknow- 
ledged by the whole Gothic nation, excepting only 
the Ostrogoths north of the Danube mouths and the 
Black Sea, who still continued under the Hunnish 
yoke. The emperor understood the character of his 
new subjects well enough to perceive that gratitude 
and honour were the ties which could best secure 
their faithfulness, and his conduct towards them was 
marked by kindness and confidence. The Visigoths 
were provided with lands in Thrace, and the Ostro- 
goths in Asia Minor ; and large gifts of corn and 
cattle were made to them. They were allowed to 
govern themselves by their ancient laws. Their 
warriors were embodied into a separate army, under 
the name of allies, receiving handsome pay and 
honoured with many special privileges, and many of 
the Gothic nobles were promoted to high office in 
the state and in the imperial household. These 
measures had their intended effect. Although, no 


doubt, there were movements of discontent here and 
there, yet as long as Theodosius lived the great body 
of the Goths seem to have regarded their benefactor 
with feelings of passionate loyalty. In his wars 
against the Western usurpers, Maximus and Eugenius, 
the Gothic warriors rendered invaluable service. 

It is plain that Theodosius took the best course 
that was open to him under the circumstances. The 
Goths could neither be expelled nor subdued by 
force. The only chance of rendering them harmless 
lay in winning their attachment, in making them feel 
that their rulers were their friends. For this purpose 
no cautious half-measures would have been of any 
use. The emperor's policy of unreserved confidence 
might appear too bold, but its seeming rashness was 
the truest prudence. 

But indeed the state of things was such that every 
policy which could be adopted was full of terrible 
danger. Just imagine what the situation was. A 
vast people of foreigners, divided from their fellow- 
subjects in language, national feeling, and religion, 
and remembering that they had lately been the con- 
querors of the Romans, were settled in the heart of the 
empire ; and forty thousand of their warriors were in- 
corporated into a separate army, supplied with Roman 
weapons, and to be trained in the art of war under 
skilled Roman generals. And it was soon easy to 
see that the indulgence bestowed on the Goths had 
developed in them a pride which would not tolerate 
the smallest slight, and might easily prompt them to 
wish to be masters instead of subjects. It is said 
that Theodosius himself, though he was always re- 



garded by the Goths as their friend, was not ill-pleased 
when he heard that they had suffered heavy losses in 
battle ; and we can scarcely wonder if it was so. 
Even had Theodosius been succeeded by a long line 
of emperors as wise as himself, it is unlikely that the 
loyalty of the Goths to the empire could have been 
maintained for many years. But what might in that 
case- have happened we do not know ; whether the 
outbreak of the Gothic revolt might have been pre- 
vented or not, at any rate it was hurried on through 
the folly of the successors of the great emperor, 
and the recklessness of their selfish and ambitious 



In January, 395, the great Theodosius died. Owing 
to the hne of the Western emperors having previously- 
come to an end, he was at his death the sovereign of 
the whole Roman world. His dominions were divided 
between his two sons ; the eldest, Arcadius, becoming 
emperor of the East, and the younger, Honorius, em- 
peror of the West. They were both mere puppets in 
the hands of their ministers and favourites, and though 
Arcadius lived till 408, and Honorius till 423, our story 
would not lose much if we were never to mention their 
names again. 

The favour shown by Theodosius to the Goths had 
excited a great deal of jealousy and discontent, which 
began to be very loudly expressed as soon as he was 
dead. Some people were foolish enough to demand 
that the new emperor should dismiss all his Gothic 
soldiers, and drive the whole nation back again over 
the Danube. Of course the Government could not 
attempt to carry out such extravagant proposals as 
these, but the popular clamour had its effect, and one 
of the first things that was done in the name of 
Arcadius was to lower the pay of the Gothic " allies." 

This was enough. The Romans had broken <sheir 


treaty, and in a (ew weeks nearly all the Visigoths 
rose in rebellion. 

Amongst the many Gothic chiefs employed in the 
Roman service was a young man not much over twenty 
years of age, named Alaric [Alh-reiks], a member of 
the princely family of the Balthings. Young as he 
was, he had rendered good service as a military com- 
mander ; but when he asked for the promotion to 
which his deeds entitled him, he was refused. He 
joined the rebels, who at once chose him as their king ; 
and this was the beginning of the renowned Balthing 
dynasty of the Visigoths. 

Led by their brave young king, the Visigoths 
marched through Macedonia and Thessaly, and en- 
tered Greece through the famous pass of Thermopylae. 
There were no successors of Leonidas and his three 
hundred Spartans to oppose their progress ; the 
guards who were stationed at the entrance of the pass 
fled without striking a blow, and Alaric and his host 
hastened through Phocis and Boeotia, burning villages 
and carrying away the population as slaves, and were 
soon encamped before the walls of Athens. The 
Athenians paid a heavy ransom in money, and invited 
Alaric to a splendid banquet ; and so the Goths de- 
parted, leaving the city unhurt. But the other famous 
cities of Greece, Megara, Argos, Corinth, and Sparta, 
fell into the hands of the barbarians ; the inhabitants 
were killed or taken captive, and their treasures 
divided amongst the conquerors. 

The great general of Honorius, Stilicho the Vandal, 
had already set out to meet Alaric with an army ; 
but the government of Constantinople foolishly re- 


fused his help. But in the following- year (396) they 
were glad to beg for it of their own accord. Landing 
at Corinth, Stilicho encountered Alaric in Arcadia, 
and succeeded in driving him into the mountain region 
of Pholoe, near the frontiers of Elis. It now seemed 
as if Alaric's escape was impossible ; Stilicho had 
hemmed him in with a strong line of earthworks, and 
by turning aside the course of a river had deprived 
the Gothic camp of its supply of water. The Romans 
abstained from making any attack, thinking that 
hunger and thirst would soon compel the Goths either 
to surrender or to risk a battle in which they were sure 
to be beaten. 

Stilicho felt so sure that he had got Alaric in a 
trap that he allowed his own soldiers to roam about 
the country in search of plunder as they liked. But 
he did not know what a clever adversary he had to 
deal with. To the amazement of the Romans, Alaric 
broke through their lines, marched thirty miles away 
to the north through a difficult country, and had 
crossed the gulf that divides the Peloponnesus from 
the mainland before Stilicho could put his forces in 
marching order. Travellers who are acquainted with 
the ground say that this march of Alaric's was one of 
tie most wonderful feats of the kind on record. The 
Roman general was making preparations for pursuit 
when he received information that the ministers of 
Arcadius had made a treaty with Alaric, who was then 
in possession of the province of Epirus. Stilicho 
therefore returned to Italy without having effected 
anything by his expedition. 

Alaric had driven a hard bargain with the court of 


Constantinople. He was made military governor of 
Eastern Illyricum — that is to say, of nearly all the 
European portion of the eastern empire. The chief 
use that he made of this command was to set the 
Government factories to work at making weapons and 
armour for his own soldiers ; and the ministers of 
Arcadius could, of course, do nothing to prevent him. 
He remained quiet for three years, arming and drilling 
his followers, and waiting for the opportunity to make 
a bold stroke for a wider and more secure dominion. 
In the autumn of the year 400, knowing that 
Stilicho was absent on a campaign in Gaul, Alaric 
entered Italy. For about a year and a half the Goths 
ranged almost unresisted over the northern part of the 
peninsula. The emperor, whose court was then at 
Milan, made preparations for taking refuge in Gaul ; 
and the walls of Rome were hurriedly repaired in 
expectation of an attack. On the Easter Sunday of 
the year 402 (March 19th), the camp of Alaric, near 
Pollentia, was surprised by Stilicho, who rightly 
guessed that the Goths would be engaged in worship, 
and would not imagine their Roman fellow-Christians 
less observant of the sacred day than themselves. 
Though unprepared for battle, the barbarians made a 
desperate stand, but at last they were beaten. The 
poet Claudian — the only true poet who lived in that 
dark age — in the poem which he wrote on the deeds 
of his patron Stilicho, tells us that the wife of 
Alaric was one of the captives taken, and in words 
which remind us of a fine passage in the Song of 
Deborah, describes how, before the battle, she had 
exulted in the prospect of adorning herself with the 


jewels of Roman matrons and being served by Roman 
captive maidens. 

But although Stilicho was victorious at Pollentia, 
and obtained a large quantity of plunder and recovered 
many thousands of Roman prisoners, the Gothic loss 
of men does not seem to have been very great Alaric 
was able to retreat in good order, and he soon after 
crossed the Po with the intention of marching against 
Rome. However, his troops began to desert in large 
numbers, and he had to change his purpose. In the 
first place he thought of invading Gaul, but Stilicho 
overtook him and defeated him heavily at Verona. 
Alaric himself narrowly escaped capture by the swift- 
ness of his horse. Stilicho, however, was not very 
anxious for the destruction of Alaric, as he thought 
he might some day find him a convenient tool in his 
quarrels with the ministers of Arcadius. So he offered 
Alaric a handsome bribe to go away from Italy. 
The king was unwilling to agree, but the chiefs who 
commanded under him would not allow him to refuse. 
Finally Alaric accepted the money, and withdrew to 
^mona in Illyria. 

The departure of the Visigoths was hailed with 
great joy throughout Italy, and Honorius and Stilicho 
celebrated (in the year 404) a triumph in honour of 
their " victory." An arch which was erected for the 
occasion bore an inscription proclaiming that " the 
Gothic nation had been subdued, never to rise again." 
Six years later Alaric and his Goths had an oppor- 
tunity of reading these boastful words as they rode 
through the streets of the conquered capital. After a 
stay of a few months in Rome, Honorius took up his 


residence in Ravenna, a city which for centuries after- 
wards continued to be the favourite abode of the 
sovereigns of Italy. 

Of Alaric we hear little more for four years, but 
during this interval an important event occurred 
which belongs to the story of the Goths, though it is 
not easy to understand the circumstances which gave 
rise to it. In the year 406, Italy was suddenly over- 
run by a vast multitude composed of Vandals, Sueves, 
Burgunds, Alans, and Goths, under the command of 
a king named Radagais. To what nation this king 
belonged is not certain, but it seems likely that he was 
an Ostrogoth from the region of the Black Sea, who 
had headed a tribe of his countrymen in a revolt 
against the Huns. The invading host is said to have 
consisted of two hundred thousand warriors, who 
were accompanied by their wives and families. These 
barbarians were heathens, and their manners were so 
fierce and cruel that the invasion excited far more 
terror than did that of Alaric. It was commonly 
affirmed that Radagais had made a vow to burn the 
imperial city, and to sacrifice the Roman senators to 
his gods. 

Stilicho found it hard work to collect an army 
capable of opposing this savage horde, and Radagais 
had got as far as Florence before any resistance was 
offered to him. But while he was besieging that city, 
the Roman general came upon him, and by surround- 
ing his army with earthworks, compelled him to 
surrender. The barbarian king was beheaded, and 
those of the captives whose lives were spared were 
sold into slavery. 


After this interlude, the second act of the drama of 
Alaric's life begins in the year 408. Stilicho, who 
had always had an idea that the Visigoths might 
some time be useful for his cherished purpose of 
humbling the eastern empire, had succeeded in per- 
suading Alaric to enter the service of Honorius, and 
to undertake a plan for uniting all the Illyrian 
provinces under the dominion of the emperor of 
the West. Before the scheme had been completely 
executed, Stilicho changed his mind, and thought 
that it had better be put off till a more convenient 
time. Alaric now made his claim for the promised 
reward of his services, and Stilicho presented his 
demands before the Roman senate in a long speech, 
in which he praised Alaric as a faithful and valuable 
ally, and showed how dangerous it would be to refuse 
what he asked for. He also told the senate that the 
Gothic king had offered his services against the 
usurper Constantine, a private soldier whom the 
army had made emperor in Gaul, and whom the 
forces at the command of Honorius were quite un- 
able to subdue. 

The senators were very angry when they were 
asked to agree to the payment of '' tribute," as they 
called it, to a barbarian king. Some of them talked 
very grandly about letting their houses be burned over 
their heads rather than consent to such a disgraceful 
surrender. But Stilicho was still powerful, and after 
a long and fierce discussion the opposition cooled 
down. The grant — four thousand pounds' weight of 
silver — was voted with only one dissentient, Lam- 
padius, who walked out of the senate house, telling 


his colleagues that what they had made was not a 
treaty of peace, but a contract of slavery. 

The contract, however, was never fulfilled. Stilicho's 
rivals and enemies managed to get the emperor on 
their side, and in August, 408, the great general, the 
only able servant Honorius ever had, was murdered 
by the order of his ungrateful master. After Stilicho 
was dead, the Romans did not trouble themselves any 
more about the treaty. Alaric's repeated demands for 
its fulfilment received no answer, and at last he led 
his armies into the north of Italy. 

The ministers of Honorius now did the most unwise 
thing that they possibly could have done. They dis- 
missed the Gothic and other barbarian officers from 
their commands, and passed a law that no Arians or 
heathens were in future to be allowed to enter the 
imperial service. The barbarian troops, who were 
most of them Arians, and had been devoted to 
Stilicho, were of course thrown into great excite- 
ment by the proofs of the ill-will of the government, 
but did not at first venture to rebel, fearing that the 
Romans might revenge themselves upon their families. 
However, the mob of the Italian cities, having got to 
know that heretics and foreigners were now out of 
favour, rose and murdered the innocent wives and 
children of the barbarian soldiers, and looted their 
property. The result was that thirty thousand men, 
inflamed with the bitterest hatred, at once deserted 
from the Roman army and joined that of Alaric. 

The march of Alaric over the north of Italy was 
like a triumphal procession. Without meeting any 
opposition, he plundered city after city till he came 


to the neighbourhood of Ravenna. Perhaps his first 
intention was to besiege the emperor in his own city ; 
but Ravenna was protected by marshes, and Alaric 
did not think it worth while to attempt to capture it. 
He had a greater prize in view. He marched across 
the peninsula, and in the beginning of the year 409 
his army encamped round the walls of Rome. Alaric 
was far too sagacious to sacrifice the lives of his 
soldiers by trying to carry the city by assault. He 
knew that a population of a million people would 
soon be starved into surrender, and so he contented 
himself with intercepting all the supplies of provi- 
sions, and waited quietly for the result. As soon as 
the Romans began to feel the distress caused by the 
siege, they threw the blame of their misfortunes on 
Stilicho's widow, who, they said, had sent for Alaric 
to revenge her husband's death ; and without any 
pretence of a trial the senate ordered her to be 
strangled. The scarcity of food grew greater from 
day to day. But though many thousands of the 
people died of hunger, so that at last there was no 
room within the walls to bury them, the senate long 
refused to think of submission. Their hopes were 
kept up by messengers from Ravenna, who succeeded 
in entering the city in spite of the Goths, and brought 
them word that the emperor would soon send an 
army to raise the siege. 

At last it was felt that the famine could be borne 
no longer, and two envoys of noble rank were sent to 
Alaric's camp to offer conditions of surrender. They 
began by trying to show Alaric that it would be 
prudent in him to grant the Romans honourable 


terms, for if he refused them the whole population 
would rise as one man, prepared to die rather than 
yield. When they were boasting of the enormous 
numbers of their people, Alaric said, " The thicker 
the grass, the easier it is to mow ! " and burst into a 
loud laugh at the idea of the townspeople of Rome 
attempting to fight. The ambassadors were a good 
deal abashed by this reception of their arguments, 
and asked what were the terms which he would offer. 
He replied that he would spare the city on condition 
of receiving all the gold and silver within the walls, 
and all the foreign slaves. " What should we have 
left, then ? " said one of the envoys in amazement. 
" Your lives ! " replied the conqueror. The ambas- 
sadors had not a word more to say, and returned to 
tell their fellow citizens that there was no hope of 
mercy from the cruel Visigoth. 

But Alaric only wished to give the Romans a 
fright : he did not really mean to insist on stripping 
them of everything they possessed. He succeeded, 
however, in making them believe he was thoroughly 
in earnest, and they were very glad when, after some 
further negotiation, he consented to fix a definite 
price for their ransom. The contract was a very 
curious one. ALaric was to receive five thousand 
pounds weight of gold, thirty thousand pounds of 
silver, four thousand silken robes, four thousand 
robes dyed with the costly Tyrian purple, and four 
thousand pounds of pepper. It seems odd to read of 
pepper being mentioned as an article of costly luxury, 
but it had then to be brought from India at great ex- 
pense, and was used very freely in Roman cookery. 



the delights of which the Goths had learned to ap- 

The price was paid, and Alaric moved his vast 
army away into Tuscany. He was careful to restrain 
his followers from committing any acts of rapine, and 
those Goths who were guilty of insulting Roman 
citizens were severely punished. The Gothic host 
was increased in numbers by forty thousand slaves, 
who had run away from their Roman masters, and 
by a large body of Goths whom Atawulf, the brother- 
in-law of Alaric, brought from the banks of the 

Alaric had still no thought of upsetting the western 
empire. What he and his Visigoths wanted was to 
found a kingdom of their own under Roman protec- 
tion. So from his camp in Tuscany he opened 
negotiations with the court at Ravenna, asking that 
he should be appointed chief of the Roman armies 
and should be allowed to settle with his followers in 
what are now the dominions of Austria. One of the 
ministers of Honorius, named Jovius, had actually 
agreed to grant him his demands ; but the emperor 
and his courtiers, who were themselves out of danger 
at Ravenna, refused to confirm the treaty. Alaric 
was terribly enraged, and he proceeded to capture 
the harbour city at the mouth of the Tiber, where the 
Roman stores of corn were kept, and by the threat 
of a second famine forced the people of Rome to 

Obeying the orders of their conqueror, the Roman 
senate declared that Honorius was deposed, and 
appointed Attalus, the prefect of the city, emperor 


in his stead. Attalus of course agreed to give Alaric 
the military rank and the dominions that he asked for. 
Most of the ItaHan cities, tired of Honorius, gladly- 
acknowledged the rival emperor, and when, accom- 
panied by the army of Alaric, Attalus approached 
the gates of Ravenna, the ministers of Honorius 
offered, in his name, to agree to a division of the 
empire. Attalus refused this proposal, and demanded 
that Honorius should at once abdicate and retire into 

Honorius was already making preparations for a 
secret escape to Constantinople, when a quarrel 
broke out between Alaric and Attalus, who was 
scheming to make himself independent of the 
Gothic king. Alaric very quickly put an end to 
the plans of his puppet emperor. A great assembly 
of Goths and Romans was called together in a plain 
near Rimini, at which Attalus was made to appear 
dressed in the purple robe, and wearing the diadem ; 
these signs of sovereignty were then solemnly taken 
away from him, and it was prclaimed that he was hence- 
forth reduced to the rank of a private citizen. He 
seems to have taken his degradation very contentedly, 
and remained attached to the household of Alaric and 
his successor, who valued him as a pleasant companion 
and a skilful musician. How he afterwards again 
meddled in State affairs, unfortunately for himself, we 
shall have to mention in a succeeding chapter. 

Alaric now sent the diadem and the purple robe of 
the deposed emperor to Honorius, as a token of his 
wish for peace and friendship. He renewed his pro- 
posals for a treaty, on the same terms as he had 


previously offered, and marching to within three 
miles of the gates of Ravenna, encamped there to 
await an answer. But a body of four thousand 
veteran soldiers, sent from Constantinople, having 
entered the city, the ministers of Honorius had re- 
covered from their panic. The Gothic camp was 
attacked unexpectedly by a small company of men 
under Sarus^ the commander of the Gothic troops 
in the Roman service ; and a herald was sent to 
proclaim to the Goths that Alaric was the perpetual 
enemy of the empire. 

Instead of making an attack on the strongly for- 
tified Ravenna, Alaric crossed the peninsula and 
laid siege, for the third time, to Rome. By a mid- 
night attack — on the 24th of August, 410 — the 
Salarian gate was forced (or opened by treachery 
it is not certain which) ; and the great city, for the 
first time since its capture by the Gauls, eight hun- 
dred years before, was given up to the plunder of a 
foreign foe. 

We may be sure that many dreadful things were 
done ■ during the six days that the Gothic army re- 
mained in Rome. And yet, terrible as the fate of 
the city undoubtedly was, it was far less terrible than 
the Romans had feared — far less terrible than the fate 
which Rome underwent more than once afterwards at 
the hands of conquerors who called themselves civilized. 
Alaric remembered that he was a Christian, and he 
tried to use his victory mercifully. He told his 
soldiers that the plunder of the city was theirs, but 
that no man was to be killed who was not in arms ; 
even of the soldiers, all were to be spared who took 


refuse in the churches of the two great apostles, St. 
Peter and St. Paul ; and all the churches and their 
property were to be held sacred. But, though Alaric's 
commands were to some extent obeyed, so that some 
of the Roman writers speak with wonder of the modera- 
tion of the Goths, it was impossible to restrain the 
furious passions of such a vast multitude of conquerors. 
The streets, we read, were heaped with dead ; men, 
and women too, were cruelly tortured to make them 
disclose the places where their wealth was hidden ; 
and many thousands of people were sold into slavery. 
We cannot wonder at the thrill of horror which this 
event caused throughout Europe, nor that the Chris- 
tians everywhere, when they heard the tale, thought 
that the end of the world was at hand. 

Alaric now felt that it was useless any more to think 
of peace with the empire. Nothing remained but to 
establish himself as absolute master of Italy. But to 
do this, it was necessary that he should secure com- 
mand of the corn supplies which came from the 
African ports ; and when he marched from Rome, it 
was with the design of conquering the African 

The Goths had reached the southern extremity of 
Italy, and had made one attempt to cross over into 
Sicily, which was defeated by the destruction of their 
fleet in a storm, when their king was taken sick, and 
died, at the age of only thirty-five years. 

With bitter lamentation the Goths bewailed the 
death of their young hero. They knew that he had 
left behind him no successor who could carry out his 
mighty plans, and that the dominion of Italy could 


never be theirs. But, while they looked forward 
forsaking the country, they resolved to make sure 
that the sepulchre of their beloved king should not 
be violated by the hands of their enemies. They 
carried his dead body to the banks of the little river 
Busento, which flows by the town of Cosenza. They 
compelled their multitude of prisoners to dig out a 
new channel for the river, and in its deserted bed 
they made a grave for their king, burying with him 
a vast treasure of gold and silver, costly garments, 
and weapons of war. Then the river was turned 
back into its former channel, and the captives who 
had done the work were put to death, so that no 
Roman should ever know the spot where rested the 
remains of Alaric, king of the Visigoths. 



We must here for a moment interrupt our narrative 
to glance at certain events that had been taking place 
in the eastern empire while Alaric was fighting 
in Greece and Italy. The colony of Ostrogoths, 
whom Theodosius had planted in Asia Minor had, 
in the year 399, rebelled under a leader named Tri- 
bigild ; the imperial general Gaina, himself a Goth, 
who was sent to subdue the rebels, ended by joining 
them, and becoming their chief. He crossed with his 
followers into Thrace, and excited great alarm at 
Constantinople, but was finally defeated, in the 
beginning of 401, by the king of the Huns, who 
sent the head of Gaina to the emperor as a sign of 
his friendly intentions. But all this has little bearing 
on the general history of the Goths, and after this 
brief digression we may continue the story of Alaric's 
followers, whom we left lamenting the loss of their 
beloved king, beside the river which flowed over his 

The new king whom the people chose in Alaric's 
place was Atawulf, Alaric's wife's brother, who has 
been mentioned in a preceding chapter. He made 
no attempt to carry out Alaric's purpose of invading 


Africa, and he does not seem to have had any clearly- 
defined plans of his own, for he spent two years in 
moving his army from the south of Italy to the north- 
west. It is said that a few years later he confessed 
that he had once had the intention to overthrow the 
Roman Empire and establish a Gothic Empire in its 
place, but that he had become convinced that the 
Goths were too rude and lawless to be capable of ruling 
the world, and so since then it had been his aim to do 
all he could to strengthen the Roman power. But 
this change in his views must have taken place 
before Alaric's death, for it is quite plain that he 
did not try to conquer Italy. Instead of that, he 
endeavoured to persuade the emperor to receive him 
as an ally. He had in his hands one argument which 
he thought would be powerful in inducing Honorius 
to consent to his demands. The emperor's favourite 
sister, Galla Placidia, was a prisoner in his camp, 
having been captured when the Goths had possession 
of Rome ; and Atawulf offered to send her home if 
Honorius would make such a treaty as he wanted. 
But probably the terms he asked were too hard, and 
the great general Constantius, who now ruled over 
the weak emperor, refused to consent to them. It is 
thought, however, that when Atawulf, in the beginning 
of the year 412, left Italy, he had got a commission 
from Honorius to go and fight with Jovinus, who had 
made himself emperor in Gaul. 

But when the Visigoths had entered Gaul Atawulf 
allowed Attains to persuade him that he had better 
try to make a friendly arrangement with Jovinus to 
divide the country with him. But Jovinus would not 


listen to the proposal, and so Atawulf returned to his 
original plan. The Goth Sarus, who was Atawulfs 
bitter enemy, had rebelled against Honorius, and was 
on his way to Gaul to support the usurper. Atawulf 
attacked him, and gained a complete victory, in 
which Sarus was killed. 

Honorius now agreed to a treaty, which provided 
that Atawulf should receive a supply of corn for his 
army, and in return should set Placidia free, and send 
the heads of Jovinus and his brother Sebastian to the 
emperor at Ravenna. The latter part of the bargain 
was fulfilled by Atawulf, but the corn did not come, 
and he said he would keep Placidia until it was re- 
ceived. He went on fighting for his own hand 
against both the imperial forces and the remnants of 
the rebel army, and before the end of 413 was master 
of most of Southern Gaul, including the cities of 
Valence, Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Narbonne. 

In Narbonne it was that he took up his abode, and 
there, in January, 414, the princess Placidia became 
his wife. The wedding was celebrated in the house 
of one of the wealthiest citizens of Narbonne, and 
Atawulf took care that it should be conducted in 
every respect according to Roman customs. The 
bridegroom was attired in Roman dress, and at the 
banquet he took the second seat, giving the place of 
honour to the princess. The presents to the bride 
included a hundred bowls filled with precious stones 
and gold pieces, which were laid before her by fifty 
noble youths dressed in splendid silken robes. The 
wedding chorus — an essential part of the Roman 
marriage ceremony among people of rank — was led 


by Attalus, who was famous for his skill in 

Some of the Romans who heard of this marriage 
thought it was the event that was referred to in the 
words of the prophet Daniel : " The king's daughter 
of the south shall come to the king of the north to 
make an agreement ; but she shall not retain the 
power of her arm, neither shall he stand, nor his arm, 
but she shall be given up." The rest of the verse 
could not well have been made to suit the occasion, 
but the prophecy, as far as this quotation goes, was 
admirably fulfilled in the events which followed. 

No doubt Atawulf thought that the Romans of Gaul, 
who he knew would never own a Gothic king as their 
emperor, might be persuaded to submit to the rule of 
a daughter of Theodosius ; and perhaps he thought 
also that Honorius would now himself be willing to 
acknowledge him, if not as sovereign of Gaul, at any 
rate as his own substitute and commander-in-chief 

But he found himself mistaken. The Romans only 
thought that Placidia had disgraced herself by marry- 
ing a barbarian ; and as for Honorius, he was still 
ruled by Constantius, whom this marriage made all 
the more bitter against Atawulf, for he had wanted 
Placidia to become his own wife. 

As a last resort Atawulf caused poor Attalus to be 
proclaimed emperor once more. But Constantius came 
with a powerful army, and as the Roman fleets had 
cut off the supply of corn from the Gaulish ports, the 
Goths were in danger of being starved out. When 
Constantius advanced they fled from Narbonne, and 


after plundering the cities and country of the south 
of Gaul, crossed the Pyrenees into Spain. The unfor- 
tunate Attains was left to shift for himself He tried 
to escape by sea, but was captured by the Roman 
fleet, and was sent to Ravenna. His life was spared, 
but two of his fingers were cut off, and he was 
banished to one of the Lipari islands, where he ended 
his days. 

Soon after arriving in Spain Atawulf captured 
Barcelona from the Vandals, and made that city his 
royal residence. Here a son was born to him, who 
received the name of Theodosius, and who, his parents 
hoped, would some day wear the diadem of his illus- 
trious grandfather. But the child soon died, and was 
buried with great pomp in a coffin of solid silver. 

In August, 415, Atawulf was murdered in his 
palace by Eberwulf, a former follower of Sarus, whom 
he had taken into his own service. Eberwulf, perhaps, 
meant treachery from the beginning, but Atawulf had 
irritated him by ridiculing his small stature. With 
his last breath the king charged his brother to 
make peace with the empire, and to send Placidia 
home to Ravenna. 

But the brother who received this counsel was not 
allowed to succeed to the throne. The people blamed 
Atawulf for favouring the Romans too much, and 
they chose as their king a brother of Sarus, named 
Sigeric. His first act was to murder the six children 
of Atawulf s former wife, and he treated Placidia with 
the most shameful cruelty, making her walk twelve 
miles by the side of his horse. But in seven days he 
too was assassinated, and Wallia [Walya], a Balthing, 

{From an ivory diptych at Monza.) 


though not related to Atawulf, was chosen in his 

WalHa treated Placidia kindly, but began by acting 
as the enemy of the Romans. Fighting both against 
the imperial forces and the Vandals and Sueves, he 
soon conquered the whole of Spain. But he was 
reduced to straits by a great famine, and like Alaric 
in a similar position, he made an attempt to cross 
over into Africa, to make the corn supplies of that 
province his own. Just as in Alaric's case, the at- 
tempt failed through storms, and Wallia had no other 
resource than to make his peace with the Romans. 
Honorius, or rather Constantius, was glad to accept 
his offer to send Placidia home, on condition of re- 
ceiving 600,000 bushels of wheat, and being allowed 
to conquer Spain under the authority of the empire. 

What became of Atawulf's widowed queen is not 
exactly part of the story of the Goths, but you may 
like to know how her strange history ended. When 
she got back to Ravenna she was compelled to marry 
Constantius, whom she disliked. Her husband was 
afterwards made joint emperor with Honorius, but 
only lived to possess the throne for seven months. 
As Honorius died childless in 423, he was succeeded 
by the infant son of Constantius and Placidia, Valen- 
tinian HI., in whose name the empire was governed 
by the empress-mother until her death in 450. Among 
the famous monuments of Ravenna is the mausoleum 
which covers the remains of Placidia, together with 
those of Honorius, Constantius, and Valentinian. 




King Wallia was now no longer a rebel, but the 
recognized champion of the Roman emperor in Spain. 
With a well-provisioned army, and the support, 
instead of the opposition, of all the barbarians who 
wished to be loyal subjects of the empire, he soon 
succeeded in conquering the whole of the peninsula 
except the mountain region of the north-west, and in 
the year 417 he sent to Honorius two captive Vandal 
kings who formed part of the procession in the 
triumph which the emperor celebrated at Rome. 

For some reason or other it did not suit Constantius's 
purpose to allow the Visigoths to settle down in Spain, 
and he proposed that instead of that country they 
sliould have the province known as the second Aqui- 
tania. Wallia must surely have been overjoyed when 
he received this splendid offer. The province, which 
included Bordeaux, Agen, Angouleme, Poitiers, and 
many other cities, was one of the most beautiful and 
fertile in all the empire. " The Pearl of Gaul," " \;he 
Earthly Paradise," " the Queen of Provinces," are 
amongst the titles which it received from poets and 
orators of that time. To receive the undisputed 
possession of such a " land o[ corn and wine and oil," 


in exchange for a country exhausted as Spain was by- 
many years of barbarian ravage, where he would have 
had to maintain his dominion by continual conflict 
with powerful enemies, was a piece of good fortune 
which Wallia could scarcely have dreamed of. And 
the concession included also some important cities 
beyond the Aquitanian frontier, chief amongst them 
being Toulouse, which became the residence of the 
kings of the Visigoths, and the capital of their 

It was at the end of the year 418 that the Goths 
marched out of Spain to occupy their new kingdom ; 
and in the following year Wallia died. He left no 
son to succeed him, though he had a daughter who 
became the mother of Rikimer, a man famous in the 
history of the Roman Empire. 

The Visigoths chose as his successor, Theoderic, 
who seems to have been a Balthing, though not re- 
lated either to Wallia or to Atawulf. You must be 
careful not to confound this Visigoth Theoderic, or 
his son of the same name, with the great Theoderic 
the Amaling, who began to reign over the Ostrogoths 
about the year 475. Theoderic the Visigoth was not 
such a great man as his namesake, but he must have 
been both a brave soldier and an able ruler, or he 
could not have kept the affection and obedience of 
his people for thirty-two years. His great object was 
to extend his kingdom, which was hemmed in on the 
north by the Franks (a German people who had just 
been allowed to settle in the country now called 
France, after their name) ; and on the west by another 
people of German invaders, the Burgunds ; while the 


Roman Empire still kept possession of some rich 
cities, such as Aries and Narbonne, which were 
temptingly close to the Gothic boundary on the 

When the emperor Honorius died, in 423, Theo- 
deric led out his armies, professedly to fight for 
Placidia and her infant son (Valentinian III.) against 
a usurper named John ; but his real object was to 
add some of the rich Roman cities to his own do- 
minions ; as very soon appeared, for when John died 
and the rebel army had submitted, he did not lay 
down his arms, but captured several towns, and 
began to besiege the great city of Aries. The 
famous Roman general Aetius, who had at first sup- 
ported the usurper, but had made his peace with 
Placidia, attacked the besieging party, and defeated 
them, taking their commander Aunwulf prisoner. 

For many years the relations between the Goths 
and the Romans were very unsettled, treaties being 
made and quickly broken whenever it suited the 
convenience of either side. In 437 the Goths had 
been trying to take Narbonne, and the Roman 
generals, Aetius and Litorius, resolved to put them 
down thoroughly. Aetius did gain a great victory, 
but he was called away to Italy, and Litorius had 
not the skill to finish the work. He besieged Theo- 
deric in his capital city, Toulouse, with such an over- 
whelming force that the Goths thought their case was 
hopeless, and sent Orientius the bishop of Auch, with 
many other bishops and clergy, to try to persuade 
the Roman general to grant honourable terms of 
peace. Litorius, who was more than half a heathen, 

{From an ivory diptych at Jlonza.) 


treated the messengers with contempt ; and so Theo- 
deric gave the order to prepare for battle. Until the 
conflict began, the king was clothed in the dress of a 
penitent, and spent many hours in prayer. His 
soldiers, inspired by their king's piety, and by the 
thought that they were fighting for Christianity 
against heathenism (for Litorius's army was mostly 
composed of Huns), made a furious attack upon the 
camp of the besiegers, who were totally defeated. 
Litorius was taken prisoner, and had to walk through 
the streets of Toulouse in the triumph which Theo- 
deric celebrated after the Roman fashion. The 
Christian writers tell how Litorius's soothsayers had 
promised him that he should go in triumph through 
the city — a promise which, like many of those given 
by heathen oracles in older days, was fulfilled in 
another sense than that in which it was understood. 

After this sudden change in the position of affairs, 
the Romans themselves were fain to sue for peace. 
Theoderic, puffed up by his success, at first refused to 
come to any terms unless the Romans would leave 
him in undisturbed possession of the whole of 
Southern Gaul, west of the Rhone. But his friend 
Avitus, a distinguished Roman senator, of whom we 
shall hear again, persuaded him to renew the alliance, 
though what the conditions were we do not know. 

Theoderic, however, did not think the Roman 
treaty was likely to last, and determined to have a 
second string to his bow. In order to secure the 
friendship of the Vandals, he gave his daughter in 
marriage to the son of their king, the fierce and cruel 
Gaiseric, who had lately conquered the Roman pro- 


vinces of Africa, and had made Carthage the capital 
of his kingdom. The marriage had a frightful sequel. 
Gaiseric suspected that his daughter-in-law was 
plotting to poison her husband, and he cut off her 
nose and ears, and sent her back to her father. 

Of course it was now impossible to think any more 
of alliance with the Vandals ; and in the year 450 the 
Visigoths and the Romans were drawn more closely 
together by the approach of a great common danger. 

The Huns, who for three-quarters of a century had 
been occupying the old seats of the Goths north of 
the Lower Danube and the Euxine, had under their 
famous king, Attila, moved westward, and were 
threatening to over-run both Gaul and Italy. The 
Hunnish army consisted, it is said, of half a million 
men, belonging to all the nations whom the Huns 
had subdued on their march. The Ostrogoths and 
Gepids, and many other Teutonic tribes, formed part 
of this immense host, and were marching to fight 
against their brethren in language and race, under the 
command of an Asiatic savage. In the face of such 
an enemy, Roman and Frank and Visigoth felt that 
they must forget their differences, and unite for 
mutual defence. Attila cunningly tried to persuade 
first one and then another of these three nations to 
take his part against the rest. But they saw very 
well that unless they joined to oppose his progress, 
Attila would conquer them one by one. Theoderic 
was, indeed, at first disposed to adopt a policy that 
was both selfish and foolish, namely, that of remain- 
ing quietly in his own kingdom, and only defending 
himself when he was attacked. Aetius had arrived at 


Aries from Italy, at the head of a small army, but he 
had no force sufficient to meet Attila without the aid 
of the Visigoths. After long persuasion from Aetius 
and Avitus, Theoderic was made to see the necessity 
of joining in the defence of Christendom against the 
heathen horde. But precious time had been wasted 
in these discussions, and before any resistance could 
be offered, Attila had marched, plundering and burn- 
ing towns and desolating the country, through the 
regions since known by the famous names of Lorraine 
and Champagne, and had begun to besiege the 
important city of Orleans. 

The city was strongly fortified and bravely de- 
fended ; but after a struggle of some days the gates 
were forced, and the vanguard of the Huns had 
passed through, when (as the church legend tells us 
in language borrowed from the story of Elijah), the 
messenger whom the holy bishop Anianius had sent 
to the walls to search the horizon beheld at last " a 
little cloud like a man's hand," which told that the 
saint's prayers were answered, and that the army of 
deliverance was approaching. 

As soon as the coming of Aetius and Theoderic 
was known to Attila, he abandoned the neighbour- 
hood of Orleans, and hastened across the Seine, to 
await the enemy in the plains of" Champagne. The 
great battle — one of those which have decided the 
fate of Europe — was fought near the village of 
Moirey, a few miles from Tro3^es.^ It began with an 

* It has usually been called the battle of Chalons, because the great 
plain of Champagne received its ancient name from the nation of the 
Catalauni, after whom Chalons was called. 



attack by the Franks upon the Gepids, who were de- 
feated with great slaughter. The Alans, who occu- 
pied the centre of the allied army, were routed by 
the Huns, and the Roman troops of Aetius were 
thrown into confusion ; Theoderic was killed by a 
dart from the hand of an Ostrogoth named Andagis ; 
but the bravery of the Visigoths carried the day, 
and Attila was compelled to retire to his camp, having 
lost a hundred and sixty thousand men. 

Theoderic was buried on the spot where he fell, in 
sight of the vanquished enemy, with all the marks of 
honour which the Goths bestowed on their royal dead. 
His son Thorismund, to whose valour and skill the 
victory was chiefly due, was chosen by the army to 
be king in his father's stead. 

In grim despair (" like a wounded lion," says Jor- 
danes) Attila waited for the attack which he ex- 
pected would result in the total ruin of his army. 
He ordered a funeral pile to be constructed, on 
which, in the event of defeat, he resolved to perish 
by fire, so that he might not fall, either alive or dead, 
into the power of his enemies. 

The anticipated assault, however, was not made. 
Although the young king of the Visigoths was eager 
to complete his triumph and to revenge his father's 
death, he listened to the advice of Aetius, who — 
fearing, it is said, lest the Gothic power should be- 
come dangerously great — recommended him to re- 
turn to Toulouse in order to prevent his brothers 
from seizing on the kingdom in his absence. And so 
Attila was allowed to retire from Gaul undisturbed. 
His army was still strong enough to enable him to 


ravage the north of Italy for two years, and to compel 
the Romans to make a humiliating treaty of peace. 
But the battle of Moirey had not been fought in vain. 
The question whether barbarism or civilization should 
prevail in Western Europe was decided ; and when 
Attila died in 453, the vast confederation of nations 
over whom he ruled had fell to pieces. The Ostrogoths 
established a kingdom in Pannonia, which included 
nearly all the present Austrian dominions south and 
west of the Danube ; the Gepids settled east of them 
in Dacia ; and the broken remnant of the Huns, after 
a fruitless invasion of the eastern empire, wandered 
away into Southern Russia, where they were over- 
whelmed by the successive swarms of kindred savages 
who continued to stream westward from Asia. 

Thorismund did not long enjoy his kingdom. He 
quarrelled with Aetius about the division of the 
Hunnisb spoils, and began to levy war upon the 
Romans ; against the wish of the more powerful party 
among his subjects, who desired to remain in friend- 
ship with the empire. A rebellion broke out, and in 
the year 453 Thorismund was murdered by two of his 
brothers, one of whom, Theoderic H., succeeded him 
in his kingdom, and reigned thirteen years. 

The second Theoderic was no mere barbarian, but 
a man of cultivated mind, refined taste, and pleasing 
and graceful manners, though, like many other men 
of whom all this can be said, he was capable of the 
basest treachery and cruelty. 

During Theoderic's lifetime events succeeded each 
other very fast at Rome. Valentinian HI., Placidia's 
worthless son, was murdered by a senator, Petronius 


■Maximus, who assumed the imperial diadem. He 
had reigned only four months when the Vandals 
under Gaiseric landed at the port of Rome. Maxi- 
mus was about to take flight, but the people, disgusted 
with his cowardice, attacked him in the street, stoned 
him to death, and threw his body into the Tiber. 
Gaiseric entered Rome unresisted, and the work of 
destruction and plunder went on for fourteen days. 
The city suffered far more terribly than it had suffered 
at the hands of Alaric. - AH the gcrld and silver, and 
valuable possessions of every kind, whether public or 
private property, which could be removed, were 
carried away to the ships of Gaiseric. Amongst 
the spoil taken by the Vandals was the seven-branched 
candlestick, and the sacred vessels of the temple of 
Jerusalem, which had fallen into the hands of Titus 
when he captured the city. Many thousands of 
prisoners were taken to be sold into slavery at 
Carthage, and the empress Eudoxia, the widow of 
Valentinian, who had been compelled to marry her 
husband's murderer, was now obliged to follow in the 
train of the barbarian conqueror. 

When the news of Maximus's death was received 
in Gaul, the Roman subjects in that province elected 
the prefect Avitus (whom we have already mentioned 
as the friend of the first Theoderic) to be emperor in 
his stead. The Visigoth king strongly supported his 
claim, and the senate at Rome did not dare to reject 
a candidate who was put forward by the most powerful 
king in Western Europe. The eastern emperor, 
Marcian, gave his consent, and Avitus took up his 
residence in the palace of the Csesars, 


As the vassal of Avitus, Theoderic made an expe- 
dition against the Sueves, who had been attacking the 
Httle that remained of Roman territory in Spain. 
The Sueves were beaten, and their king, Rekihari, 
was captured and cruelly put to death. Theoderic 
would soon have conquered the whole peninsula, but 
in October, 456, his career was stopped by the news 
that the emperor had been deposed and killed. Avitus 
had incurred the displeasure of the " Warwick the 
king-maker " of those days — Rikinjer, the general of 
the barbarian troops in the Roman service. This 
remarkable man was the son of a Suevic father, and 
of the daughter of Wallia, king of the Visigoths. 
At this time he was practically sovereign of the 
western empire ; and although he never took the 
imperial title himself, he continued, until his death in 
472, to appoint and depose emperors just as he 
pleased. The history of Rome under the nominal 
rule of Majorian, Severus, Anthemius, and Olybrius, 
does not belong to our story ; but the growing weak- 
ness of the empire, caused by the political confusion, 
and the occasional struggles between these emperors 
and their master, allowed the Visigoth kings to pursue 
their schemes of conquest without any serious check. 

In 466, Theoderic, who had gained his throne by 
the murder of his brother, was himself murdered by 
his younger brother Euric. A skilful general and a 
cunning statesman, utterly destitute of conscience, 
shrinking from no act of cruelty or treachery necessary 
for the accomplishment of his plans, Euric raised the 
Visigoth kingdom to its highest point of power. He 
conquered the whole of the Spanish peninsula, with 


the exception of the north-western corner, which he 
allowed the Suevic kings to hold as his vassals, and he 
destroyed the small remnant of Roman dominion in 

If you glance at the map accompanying this volume, 
you will see how Gaul was divided at the time of 
Euric's death in 485. The Visigoths held nearly all 
the country south of the Loire and west of the 
Rhone, besides the region since known as Provence, 
which includes the great cities of Aries and Marseilles. 
Their eastern neighbour was the kingdom of the 
Burgunds, ruled over by Gundobad, the nephew of 
Rikimer. North of the Loire was the so-called 
" Roman Kingdom," which had been founded by 
Syagrius, the son of the Roman general ^Egidius, 
and which had its capital at Paris. And behind the 
kingdom of Syagrius, in the tract including North- 
eastern France, Belgium, and Holland, dwelt the 
nation of the Franks, who were destined in a few 
years to conquer the whole of Gaul, and eventually to 
bestow upon it the new name which it bears to this 

If the successors of Euric had been endowed with 
genius and energy equal to his, it is possible that the 
Visigoths might have made themselves masters of the 
whole Western world. But there was in the kingdom 
one fatal element of weakness, which perhaps not 
even a succession of rulers like Euric could have long 
prevented from working the destruction of the State. 
The Visigoth kings were Arians ; the great mass of 
their subjects in Gaul were Catholics, and the hatred 
between religious parties was so great that it was 


almost impossible for a soverei^^n to win the attach- 
ment of subjects who regarded him as a heretic. The 
Arian Goths, to do them justice, scarcely ever were 
guilty of religious persecution. But when the 
Catholic bishops were found preaching rebellion, 
and conspiring against the throne, Euric put some 
of them to death, banished others, and refused to 
allow successors to be consecrated in their dioceses. 
Where there were no bishops, of course priests could 
not be ordained ; the parishes were left without clergy, 
and the whole church organization fell into a state of 
ruin which excited the bitterest indignation both in 
the kingdom itself and among Catholic Christians in 
all the neighbouring lands. 

Euric's son and successor, Alaric II., inherited 
neither his father's ability nor his strength of will. 
Before he had been two years on the throne, he had 
shown his own weakness by an act which disgusted 
many of his faithful subjects, and only earned for 
him the contempt of those whom it was intended to 

The king of the Franks, Clovis,^ who, though only 
a boy, had already shown the talents of a great 
general, had conquered the kingdom of Paris. King 
Syagrius fled to Toulouse, and was at first received 
with welcome. But when Clovis demanded that he 
should be given up, Alaric did not dare to refuse, and 
Syagrius, loaded with chains, was delivered into the 
hands of the Frankish ambassadors. " Faithless " as 

* We give him the name by which he is usually known ; the more 
correct, though less pronounceable form is Hlodowig or Chlodovech, 
the same name as the German Ludwig and the French Louis. 


the Goths were often called by their enemies, they 
were always proud of their observance of the duties 
of hospitality, and they were bitterly ashamed of this 
cowardly and treacherous deed of their king. And 
Alaric's Gaulish subjects, who looked eagerly forward 
to an opportunity of rebellion, were greatly en- 
couraged by this proof of the feebleness of the hands 
into which the sceptre of the terrible Euric had 

The only hope of deliverance from the Visigoth 
yoke, however, lay in a conquest of the kingdom by 
the Franks ; and as Clovis was a heathen, there was 
reason to fear that the Catholics might find themselves 
worse off under his rule than even under that of 
Alaric. Some of the bishops, indeed, went so far as 
to say that it was better to serve a heathen than a 
heretic, and sent messages to Clovis assuring him of 
their sympathy in case of an invasion. But they did 
not succeed in pursuading their people to join them : 
however discontented they might be under Alaric, the 
Southern Gauls felt that to place themselves in the 
hands of Clovis, might be a remedy worse than the 

This state of things continued until the year 496, 
when the news came that Clovis had professed himself 
a Christian, and had been baptized by a Catholic 
bishop. The thought of inviting a Prankish invasion 
now rapidly gained ground among the southern 
Catholics, whose discontent with their own condition 
was increased by the reports which they received of 
the growing wealth and prosperity of the Church in 
Clovis's dominions. Many of the clergy began openly 


to preach rebellion, and to offer public prayers for the 
coming of the deliverer from the north. 

Alaric felt his danger. At first he tried his father's 
plan of banishing the rebellious bishops, and when 
that did not seem to answer, he tried to win over 
the Catholics by kindness, granting them increased 
privileges, and authorizing them to hold a council and 
to fill up the vacant bishoprics. But it was all to no 
purpose. The Catholics did not want to be tolerated 
or patronized, they wanted to rule. Alaric's conces- 
sions therefore satisfied nobody, while they were 
looked upon as a proof of weakness, which encouraged 
the hope that the Visigoth rule might be brought to 
an end without much difficulty. 

Meanwhile the Prankish clergy were pressing on 
their king the duty of declaring a holy war against 
the heretic oppressor of their brethren. Clovis, we 
may be sure, was not unwilling, but first of all he had 
a quarrel to settle with his brother-in-law Gundobad, 
king of the Burgunds, who like Alaric was an Arian, 
though, unlike him, he had been able to gain the 
affection of his Catholic subjects. Gundobad was 
defeated, and the Burgunds entered into a treaty of 
alliance with the Franks. Although Alaric saw the 
danger to his own kingdom from the growth of the 
Prankish power, he did not dare to offer Gundobad 
any armed support, but he was imprudent enough to 
express his sympathy with the Burgunds. His utter- 
ances were reported to Clovis, who was very angry. 
Alaric was in a great fright, and wished to explain 
away what he had said. He wrote a letter to " his 
brother" Clovis, begging him to grant him an interview. 


The two kings met on an island in the Loire, near 
Amboise, where they feasted together, and conversed 
with every appearance of friendliness. But every one 
knew that the peace would not last long. The 
situation was like that in the fable of " The Wolf and 
the Lamb." However much Alaric might cringe and 
flatter, Clovis would devour him all the same, as soon 
as he found it convenient to do so. 

It was in the year 507 that Clovis declared war 
against the Visigoths. The real motive was the 
king's ambition and desire of conquest. Of course 
he tried to find an excuse for his aggression ; but he 
did not consider it worth while even to pretend that 
Alaric had injured him. All he had to say was "that 
it was a shame that the Arians should possess the 
finest country in Gaul, and that it was his duty as a 
Catholic king to drive them out, and to add their 
lands to his own dominions." Neither Clovis, nor his 
clergy, or people, thought that any other justification 
was needed ; and the Franks went to war against the 
Visigoths, like the Hebrews against the people of 
Canaan, convinced that they were doing God service, 
and that He was on their side. 

Perhaps this was the first time that a Christian 
nation ever made war with no other professed reasons 
than those of religious differences ; unhappily it was 
very far from being the last. 

Alaric was in despair. He had to meet not only 
the Franks, but the Burgunds as well ; his army had 
been for many years neglected, and his treasury had 
become empty. He compelled, or tried to compel, 
all the able-bodied men in his kingdom to become 


soldiers, and tried all sorts of means to get money to 
pay them. First he had recourse, like James II. of 
England and many other kings in their time of need, 
to the plan of debasing the coinage, and then he 
compelled the rich people to lend him money, which 
there was little hope of their ever getting back. But 
with all his efforts Alaric could neither raise the men 
nor the money that he needed. His only hope lay in 
foreign help. His father-in-law, the great Theoderic 
the Amaling, who, as you will learn in another 
chapter, was at this time King of Italy, had promised 
to send him a body of troops. Alaric was therefore 
anxious to put off fighting until these Ostrogoth allies 
had arrived, and so he abandoned the defence of the 
northern and eastern parts of his kingdom, and took 
up his position in the south-west, near Poitiers. Just 
at this time one of the Catholic bishops in Alaric's 
dominions — Galactorius of Beam — raised an army in 
his own diocese, and marched at its head intending to 
join the Franks. Before he had got very far, however, 
this warlike prelate was attacked by the Goths, and 
fell, as his fellow religionists thought, " gloriously 

As the ancient heathen had their " oracles," so the 
Christians of the sixth century had theirs. It was to 
the tombs of famous saints that people used to resort 
when they wished to know whether any undertaking 
which they had engaged in would be successful or not. 
The priest in charge of the tomb would receive their 
questions, and on the following morning communicate 
the answers which he professed the saint had revealed 
to him in a dream. When Clovis with his army had 


entered Tours, he sent messengers to inquire at the 
sepulchre of St. Martin what would be the result of 
his war against the Visigoths. The messengers were 
told that the answer would be contained in the words 
of the psalm which they should hear as soon as they 
entered the church. The verses proved to be the 
following : "Thou hast girded me with strength unto 
the battle : Thou hast subdued under me those that 
rose up against me. Thou hast also given me the 
necks of mine enemies, that I might destroy them 
that hate me." 

Encouraged by this response, the Franks marched 
through the territories of Alaric, eager for the conflict 
with the enemy whom God had given into their 
hands. The church historians tell of the " signs and 
wonders " which were granted them on their way to 
assure them of the continuance of the Divine favour. 
It is said that when they had come to the banks of 
the river Vienne, their progress was stopped by finding 
the stream swollen by the heavy rains, so that it 
seemed impossible for them to cross. But while they 
were considering what to do, a beautiful white hart 
was seen to wade across the river, thus showing them 
the place of a ford, over which the army was able to 
pass. The place was long afterwards called " the 
hart's ford." Very likely this story was suggested by 
the name itself, which may be compared with those 
of Hertford and Hartford in England. As the 
Franks approached the city of Poitiers, they saw in 
the sky above the cathedral a blaze of light which 
reminded them of the "pillar of fire" that went before 
the chosen people in the desert. 


The rapidity of Clevis's advance was something 
quite unexpected by the Visigoths. Alaric still clung 
to the hope of being able to avoid a battle until the 
arrival of Theoderic's Ostrogoths, and wished to 
retreat. But the Franks were of course anxious to 
fight as soon as possible, and they were so close 
behind, and their movements were so rapid, that a 
retreat on the part of the Goths would have been 
nothing but a flight. Alaric's officers were of opinion 
that it was better to offer a bold front to the enemy 
where they were than to be pursued and overtaken, 
and the king, sorely against his will, was obliged to 
yield to their advice. He drew up his army on " the 
field of Voclad " (the name still survives as Vouille or 
Vougle) on the banks of the Clain, a few miles south 
of Poitiers, and prepared to receive the attack of the 

The battle which followed decided the fate of Gaul. 
The Visigoths were totally defeated, and their king 
was killed. Alaric's son, Amalaric, a child five years 
of age, was carried across the Pyrenees into Spain. 
During the next two years Clovis conquered, with 
very little resistance, almost all the Gaulish dominions 
of the Visigoths, and added them to his own. The 
" Kingdom of Toulouse " was no more. 

So, as Jordanes says, the greatness of the Visigoths, 
which had been built up by the first Alaric, fell to 
ruin under the second. But Clovis was not allowed 
to fulfil his intention of thoroughly destroying their 
power, for the great Theoderic of Ital)^ took up the 
cause of his grandson Amalaric. The final result of 
many struggles between Theoderic and the Franks 



was that the Visigoths were allowed to remain masters 
of Spain, and of a strip of sea-coast bordering on the 
Gulf of Lyons. 

Of the fortunes of this diminished kingdom, which 
lasted just 200 years, we shall afterwards have to tell. 
But for the present we must leave the Visigoths, 
whose history is no longer the main thread of the 
story of the Goths. We have to relate how the 
Ostrogoths won the kingdom of Italy, how they ruled 
there, and how at length they fell. 



We must now go back to the year 472, when 
Rikimer the emperor-maker died. The last emperor 
whom he had made, Olybrius, survived him only two 
months ; and, after some time, Gundobad, Rikimer's 
nephew — the same whom we have before spoken of 
as King of the Burgunds — appointed a certain 
Glycerius to the vacant throne. The choice did not 
please the eastern emperor, Leo, and Julius Nepos, 
Prince of Dalmatia, and a nephew (by marriage) of 
Leo's wife, was proclaimed at Constantinople, Emperor 
of the West. Nepos sailed to Italy to take possession 
of his empire in the spring of 474. There was not 
much trouble with Glycerius, who was soon persuaded 
to resign his diadem, and accept consecration as 
Bishop of Salona in Dalmatia. But in the August of 
the following year, Nepos himself had to take refuge 
in his inherited dominions. The army had revolted, 
and the commander-in-chief, an lUyrian named Orestes, 
had seized the reins of government. 

This Orestes had had a strange history. About 
thirty years before the date of the events just 
mentioned, his native country — the northern part of 
of what is now called Croatia — had been given up by 


the Romans to the Huns. Orestes, who was then 
quite a young man, finding himself one of Attila's 
subjects, offered his services to the Hunnish king, 
and seems to have acted as his secretary. In this 
capacity he was in the year 448 sent on a mission 
from Attila to the eastern emperor, Theodosius II., 
and we read of his being terribly indignant because 
he was not regarded as a person of equal consequence 
with his fellow-envoy, Edica the Scirian. By what 
curious chances it came about that the former 
secretary of Attila now found himself at the head of 
the Roman army, and master of the Roman state, 
history does not tell. 

Orestes did not choose to call himself emperor, 
thinking, perhaps, that it was safer for the wearer of 
the diadem and the real holder of power to be different 
persons. He contented himself with the title of 
Patrician, the same which had been borne by Rikimer 
and by Aetius ; and bestowed the imperial crown on 
his son, a boy of fourteen, who was named Romulus 
after his maternal grandfather. Very likely Orestes 
may have thought what a lucky omen it was that the 
new emperor should bear the name of Rome's first 
sovereign, and may have flattered himself that his 
son's reign would be the beginning of a new age 
of glory and prosperity for the empire that had fallen 
so low. But the people looked on the election of the 
boy- emperor as a good joke, and turned his grand 
title of Augustus into the playful diminutive Augus- 
tulus. And so " Romulus Augustulus " is the name 
by which the son of Orestes is always known in 


It was not long before signs of serious trouble 
showed themselves. The barbarian troops in the 
Roman service demanded of the Patrician that 
he should make them a gift of one-third of every 
landed estate in Italy. Orestes refused, and the whole 
mixed multitude of Goths, Scirians, Rugians, Tur- 
cilings, Herules, and Alans, which now formed the 
great bulk of the military force of the western empire, 
rose at once in rebellion. They chose as their king 
Odovacar or Odoacer [Audawakrs], the son of that 
Edica the Scirian, whom we have mentioned as 
having been associated with Orestes in Attila's em- 
bassy to Constantinople. The Scirians were one of 
those smaller peoples who spoke the same language 
of the Goths, and hence Odovacar is often spoken of 
as " King of the Goths." But he was really not the 
king of any nation, but only of the mingled host, 
belonging to many barbarian races, who served under 
the Roman standards. 

There is a story which tells how, when Odovacar 
was a young man, poor and unknown, he was wander- 
ing in Southern Germany, and paid a visit with some 
of his companions to a saintly hermit named Severinus 
to ask for his blessing. His coarse dress showed his 
poverty, but the attention of the saint was at once 
attracted by his stature, which was so tall that he had 
to stoop in order to come under the lowly roof of the 
cell. Severinus soon saw that the young Scirian 
was as remarkable for his powers of mind as for 
his noble form and bearing, and prophesied that 
there was a glorious career before him. Odovacar 
informed him that he was intending to go to Italy 



to seek employment in the Roman army. " By all 
means go," said Severinus, " although you are now- 
poorly clad in skins, I foresee that it will not be 
long before you make many men rich with your 
princely gifts." 

Orestes was killed in the tumult ; some say that 
Odovacar slew him with his own hand. But the king 
of the barbarians took pity on '' Romulus Augustu- 
lus," and gave him a pension of six thousand gold 
pieces yearly, and a splendid palace at Misenum, on 
the bay of Naples, which had belonged to the great 
Roman general, Lucullus. 

It was in the year 476 that Orestes was put to death. 
For four years longer Odovacar seems to have kept 
up the pretence of being the servant and protector of 
the boy-emperor. But in the year 480 Augustulus 
was made formally to resign his throne, and to add his 
signature to a memorial which the senate addressed to 
the eastern emperor Zeno, saying that they had deter- 
mined to abolish the useless dignity of emperor of the 
west, and asking him to proclaim himself the sovereign 
of the whole Roman world. Of course they added 
the request that Zeno would entrust the government 
of the w^estern provinces to that excellent statesman 
and soldier Odovacar, and confer on him the rank ot 

The memorial was carried to Constantinople by 
delegates from the senate, who were accompanied by 
ambassadors sent by Odovacar himself No doubt 
Odovacar thought that Zeno, who had just been re- 
stored to the throne from which he had been driven 
by rebellion, would be highly flattered by the prospect 


of becoming, if only in name, the emperor both of 
east and west. 

But on the same day on which the envoys pre- 
sented themselves at the palace, there arrived ambas- 
sadors from Nepos to congratulate Zeno on his 
restoration, and to beg for his assistance in regaining 
his lost empire. Nepos was related by marriage to 
the empress, and had too many friends at the court 
at Constantinople for Zeno to venture to betray his 
cause. He angrily upbraided the senate for their 
treason against their rightful sovereign. To Odovacar 
himself he sent a polite letter, recommending him to 
acknowledge his allegiance to Nepos, and to seek to 
obtain from him the office which he desired. In the 
letter, however, he addressed Odovacar by the title of 
" Patrician," which, he said, he felt sure Nepos would 
willingly grant when he was asked. 

But although Zeno might refuse to acknowledge the 
action of the senate, it was none the less the fact that 
the abdication of Romulus was the end of the 
western empire. The year 480 is a memorable date 
in history, and the name of " Romulus Augustulus " a 
memorable name, though the poor boy-emperor him- 
self never did anything to make it so. From this 
time forward the proud title of Augustus remained 
the exclusive possession of the rulers of Constanti- 
nople, until three centuries later it was assumed by 
the Prankish king who was crowned at Rome as the 
successor of the emperors of the West. 

Before this fateful year had closed, Nepos was 
assassinated by a certain Count Ovida. Zeno made 
no attempt to appoint a successor, and no longer 


refused to be regarded as sovereign over the western 

Of course this sovereignty was only an empty name, 
for Odovacar was practically king of Italy, and all the 
rest of what had been the western empire was in the 
hands of other barbarian kings. The rule of Odovacar, 
so far as it depended on himself, was wise and merciful. 
Although an Arian, he gave the Catholics full liberty 
of worship ; the Roman state officials were allowed to 
keep their places, and the system of government was 
little changed. But the barbarian soldiers received 
their promised third part of the Italian lands, and 
they subjected the Roman country people to a great 
deal of insult and oppression, which the king was 
unable to prevent. Property and life became insecure ; 
agriculture and trade fell into neglect, and altogether 
the state of Italy under Odovacar was one of great 

Although Odovacar would tolerate no interference 
with his government, he tried to gain Zeno's goodwill 
in various ways. He sent over to Constantinople the 
insignia of the imperial palace, and caused statues of 
the emperor to be erected in Rome and elsewhere. 
He also undertook an expedition to Dalmatia against 
the murderer of Nepos, who was taken prisoner and 
put to death. 

But Zeno was anxious to be master of Italy in reality 
as well as in name, and if he had had a powerful army 
at his command he would very promptly have made an 
attempt to drive out the Usurper by force of arms. 
For several years his weakness compelled him to put 
off his design, but about the year 489 he granted per- 



mission to the king of the Ostrogoths, the famous 
Theoderic the AmaHng, to invade the country, and to 
take possession of it in the name of the empire. 

Before we tell of the struggle that took place be- 
tween Odovacar and the Amaling, we must relate the 
story of Theoderic's early life. 



Theoderic, the son of Theudemer, as we have 
already mentioned at the end of our fifth chapter, 
was born on the day when his uncle Walamer, king 
of the Ostrogoths, won the great victory that set his 
nation free from the dominions of the Huns. The 
home of the Ostrogothic nation was then (about A.D. 
454) in the region which we call South-western 
Austria, and Theoderic's birthplace was somewhere 
not very far from Vienna. After the Ostrogoths had 
established their independence, they entered into an 
alliance with the eastern emperor Marcian, who 
agreed to pay them a large sum of money every 
year, to enable them to defend their kingdom and 
furnish men when required for the service of the 

While Marcian lived the treaty seems to have been 
observed on both sides. The next emperor, Leo of 
Thrace, owed his position to the favour of the "Patri- 
cian" Aspar, a barbarian who had at Constantinople 
the same rank and the same influence that Rikimer 
had at Rome ; and Aspar caused the yearly subsidy 
to be taken away from Walamer and given to an- 
other Gothic chieftain, a relative of his own, Theoderic 


Strabo/ the son of Triarius. Who this man was 
we do not certainly know, but possibly the body 
of Goths whom he commanded may have been 
descendants of those who sixty years before had 
been defeated with Gaina in Thrace. We shall have 
frequently to speak of him in the following chapters, 
and in order to distinguish him from the other 
Theoderic, we shall always give him his Latin name. 

King Walamer tried all peaceable means to induce 
the emperor Leo to restore him his yearly pay, but 
when he found that his representations were of no 
avail he led his army into Illyria, and soon made 
the Romans feel that it was much better to have him 
for a friend than for an enemy. In the year 462 the 
treaty was renewed. The emperor agreed to make 
Walamer a regular payment of three hundred pounds 
weight of gold every year, besides paying the arrears 
that had already been incurred. In return the 
Ostrogoths undertook to guard the borders of the 
empire, and the little Theoderic, then eight years 
old, was sent to Constantinople as a hostage to ensure 
fulfilment of their part of the bargain. His father 
was not very willing to let him go, but king Walamer 
persuaded him to consent — urging the great ad- 
vantage which it would be for the boy, who would 
one day be king of the Ostrogoths, to have received 
an education in the imperial palace. 

The young Gothic prince soon became a great 

^ As the Latin word Sti-abo means a person who squints, it has often 
been thought that Theoderic must have been so nicknamed on account 
of a personal defect. But it is quite as Hkely that Strabo was the 
name of some Roman patron, by whom Theoderic had been adopted 
as a son. 


favourite with the emperor. He remained ten years 
at Constantinople, and seems to have been brought 
.up just like the son of a Roman of high rank. The 
most celebrated teachers in the capital were secured 
for his education, and although no doubt he was 
more distinguished for success in athletic exercises 
than in book-learning, we need not believe the com- 
mon story that when he became king of Italy he 
was unable to write, and had to make his official 
signature with the help of a gold stencil-plate. His 
residence in Constantinople certainly taught him to 
appreciate the advantages of civilized ways of life, 
and inspired him with a desire to impart those ad- 
vantages to his own people. 

When Theoderic was eighteen years old, he was 
allowed to return home, receiving on his departure 
many splendid presents from the emperor and his 
court. During his period of exile, king Walamer 
had been killed in a battle against the Scirians, and 
Theudemer had become king in his stead. It was 
hard work for the Ostrogoth kingdom to maintain 
itself against the attacks of the surrounding peoples. 
On one side it was assailed by the Gepids and 
Sarmatians, on another side by the Alamans, Sueves, 
and Rugians ; and the remnant of the Huns had 
not given up trying to recover their lost dominion. 
When Theoderic returned home, he found that his 
father was away fighting the Alamans in the north- 
west, while the opposite extremity of the kingdom 
was threatened by a Sarmatian king named Babai, 
who had captured the Roman fortress of Singidunum 
(now Belgrade). 


The young prince soon showed that his education 
at Constantinople had included some lessons in the 
art of war. Without waiting for his father's permis- 
sion, he collected a band of six thousand men, and 
attacked Babai on his own ground. Singidunum 
was taken ; the Sarmatian king was killed, and his 
family and his treasure carried off in triumph to the 
Ostrogoth capital. In spite of his friendly relations 
with the emperor Leo, Theoderic did not give back 
Singidunum to the Romans. Perhaps indeed they 
never asked for it, for the rulers at Constantinople 
were kept too busy with their home troubles to think 
much about the outlying* parts of the empire, and 
Theoderic had at any rate relieved them of one 
dangerous enemy. 

But the limits of Theudemer's kingdom were too 
narrow for the numbers of the people, and the con- 
tinual conflicts with the border tribes left them little 
opportunity for tilling their fields ; besides, after 
nearly a century of wandering about under the 
dominion of the Huns, they could not be very well 
fitted to settle down peacefully as farmers. When 
the Ostrogoths found themselves in danger of famine, 
they begged their king to lead them forth to war — 
no matter against what enemy, if only they might 
have the chance of supporting themselves by 

The king could not refuse his people's demand. 
The army was divided into two bodies, one led by 
Theudemer himself, the other by his brother 
Widumer, and it was decided that they should 
attack severally, the eastern and the western Roman 


Empire. In the presence of the assembled people 
the two chiefs solemnly cast lots to determine the 
direction in which each of them should march. 

The lot so fell out that Widumer led his division 
of the people to Italy. It was in the short reign 
of Glycerins, and that emperor — it was almost the 
only official act of his that we know of, except his 
abdication — induced the invaders, by the gift of a 
large sum of money, to go away into Gaul, where 
they united themselves with the Visigoth subjects 
of Euric. 

The great mass of the Ostrogoth nation, however, 
followed their king into the region between the 
Danube and the Balkan mountains, which had so 
often, in years gone by, had the misfortune to be 
ravaged by Gothic invaders. The city of Naissus 
and several others fell into their hands, and the 
Romans of Constantinople were so alarmed by their 
successes that they were glad to purchase peace. 
The Ostrogoths were invited to settle in Macedonia, 
and received large gifts of land and money. Amongst 
the cities which were abandoned to them was Pella, 
famous as the birthplace of Alexander the Great. 

Just after the conclusion of this treaty (in the year 
474) Theudemer died, and his son Theoderic, at the 
age of twenty years, began his long and glorious 
reign as king of the Ostrogoths. 



The emperor Leo died in the same year as 
Theudemer, and was succeeded by his son-in-law, 
" Trasacodissa the son of Rusumbladeotus," a native 
of Isauria in Asia Minor, who had exchanged his 
barbarous-sounding native name for the more pro- 
nounceable Greek name of Zeno. You will remember 
that it was to this emperor that the senate of Rome, 
under the dictation of Odovacar, offered in 480 the 
sovereignty of Italy and the West. 

Zeno was, as the historiarfs of that time tell us, 
" a coward who trembled even at the picture of a 
battle." There was no act of meanness and no 
humiliation from which he would have shrunk if it 
were necessary in order to avoid war. But the two 
principal " foreign powers," if we may call them so, 
with whom he had to do, Theoderic, king of the 
Ostrogoths, and Theoderic Strabo, were bitter enemies 
to each other, and if Zeno tried to please one of 
them he v/as sure to bring down on himself the wrath 
of the other. So he was constantly seeking by 
flattery and rich presents, to attach to his own side 
whichever of the two Gothic chiefs happened to 
be strongest, and at the same time so to arrange 


matters that both of them should suffer as much 
damage as possible from their mutual conflicts. 

Before Zeno had been a year on the throne, he 
was driven out of Constantinople by a rebellion in 
which Basiliscus, the brother of Leo's widow, was 
made emperor. Strabo supported the usurper, and 
while he reigned held the rank of Patrician and com- 
mander-in-chief But the Ostrogoths were on Zeno's 
side, and after two years Basiliscus was dethroned, 
and Zeno came back to Constantinople. The 
emperor made a great display of his gratitude to 
Theoderic the Amaling for his share in defeating 
the rebels ; he gave him the title of Patrician, 
adopted him as his son, conferred on him a high 
command of the imperial armies, and made him a 
a grant of large sums of money. Theoderic, how- 
ever, knew very well that " his father " Zeno would 
not at all scruple to betray him whenever it suited 
his convenience, and so, to make his own position 
more secure, he removed his people from their Mace- 
donian abodes, and settled them along the southern 
bank of the Danube, from Singidunum down to the 
river mouth. 

Meanwhile Theoderic Strabo and /lis Goths ranged 
undisturbed over Thrace, and maintained themselves 
by the plunder of the country people of that province. 
He is said to have been guilty of many acts of cruelty, 
such as cutting off the right hands of the prisoners 
whom he took, so that they might never be able to 
fight against him. But the plunder of Thrace was 
soon exhausted, and when Strabo found it difficult to 
obtain food for his army he sent ambassadors to Zeno 


to say that he was willing to make peace — on condi- 
tion of being put into the position then occupied by 
his rival. He argued that Theoderic the Amaling 
had acted like a rebel, in occupying the Danube 
region without permission, and that it would be to 
the emperor's interest to break with the Ostrogoths, 
and entrust Strabo himself with the duty of punishing 
their breach of faith. 

Zeno thought that Strabo's wish for peace was a 
sign of weakness, and therefore rejected the proposals 
with the utmost scorn, and gave orders to his generals 
to prosecute the war with all possible vigour. But 
Strabo's Goths showed unexpected powers of resist- 
ance ; the Roman troops were beaten, and there 
actually seemed reason to fear that the enemy might 
soon threaten Constantinople itself. It was now the 
emperor's turn to try to make peace, and he sent to 
offer Strabo the undisturbed possession of the territory 
he had conquered, on condition that he should abstain 
from further hostilities against the empire, and should 
send his son as a hostage to Constantinople. 

But Strabo by this time had got to know his own 
strength. He had learned, too, that he had many 
friends in the capital itself, and believed that it might 
not be difficult for him to obtain an entrance into the 
city and to make himself master of the empire. He 
accordingly rejected the proposed conditions, and 
Zeno in his despair was reduced to implore the help 
of the Ostrogoths. 

Theoderic the Amaling, however, shrewdly sus- 
pected that Zeno meant to lead him into a trap, and 
it was a long time before he could be persuaded to 


move. He made the emperor swear a solemn oath 
never to make peace with Strabo, and promise that 
before he arrived in presence of the enemy he should 
be joined by a Roman army of eight thousand horse 
and thirty thousand foot. Having received these 
assurances, Theoderic led his soldiers into Thrace. 
After a long and toilsome march through a desolate 
country, he suddenly came in sight of Strabo's army, 
posted in a strong position on a mountain called 
Sondis. There was no sign of the coming of the 
promised Roman troops, and it soon became clear 
that Zeno had never meant to send them. 

Theoderic's situation was a desperate one. It was 
impossible to attack Strabo in his encampment on the 
mountain, and just as impossible to retreat to a safer 
position. He remained for several days undecided, 
perhaps hoping against hope that his Roman allies 
might after all arrive. Strabo made no attempt to 
assume the offensive, but rode every day to a place 
which was out of the reach of bowshot, and where his 
powerful voice could be heard in the Ostrogoth camp. 
" Goths ! " he said, " will you let yourselves be led by 
that foolish boy to fight against your own brothers ? 
Will you be made to play the game of the Romans, 
who desire nothing better than to see us cut each 
other's throats ? What has Theoderic ever done for 
you ? Some of you were rich once : he has made 
you poor. Nobles and freemen as you call yourselves, 
he has led you out like slaves to perish in this desert 
that he may earn honours and wealth from the enemies 
of our people." Such words as these excited fierce 
discontent amongst the Ostrogoths, and their king 


was compelled to enter into an alliance with his rival. 
And so, while Zeno was expecting the welcome news 
of a bloody battle between his enemy and his too 
dangerous ally, he learned instead that the two chiefs 
had united against him, and were prepared to march 
together upon Constantinople unless the demands of 
both were fully satisfied. 

The treacherous emperor could think of no other 
plan than that of bribing one of the new allies to 
betray the other. First he tried what he could do 
with the Amaling. He offered him immense sums 
of money paid down, and a larger yearly income 
than he had before received from the empire. He 
also promised him the hand of the daughter of 
Olybrius, the late emperor of the West. But Theo- 
deric was not to be induced to become a traitor, and 
Zeno then endeavoured to buy over the other of the 
confederates. In this attempt he was successful. 
Whatever Strabo might have said about the wicked- 
ness and folly of a war between " brethren," he had 
no objection to fight against the Ostrogoths if the 
price offered was high enough, and he accepted the 
emperor's proposal to invest him with the honours 
and commands which had been held by the Amaling, 
and to allow him to maintain thirteen thousand Gothic 
soldiers at the emperor's cost. 

It is no wonder that Theoderic was very angry at 
this shameful breach of faith. The first thing he did 
was to invade Macedonia, where it is said that he 
put the garrisons of several cities to the sword with- 
out quarter ; then, crossing over the mountains into 
Epirus, he came to the Adriatic coast, and took pos- 


session of Dyrrhachium (Durazzo), the great seaport 
from which ships used to sail for the south of Italy. 

But Zeno soon became dissatisfied with the conduct 
of Strabo, and so he sent ambassadors after the 
Amaling to try to make peace with him. He offered 
to grant the Ostrogoths a tract of country in Epirus, 
and to provide them with money to buy corn until 
they could raise their first harvest. Theoderic in- 
sisted on better terms ; but while the negotiations 
w^ere going on, his brother Theudamund was treacher- 
ously attacked by a Roman general, who took five 
thousand prisoners. After this the parley was broken 
off, and the war began afresh. 

In the year 481 a rebellion broke out in the neigh- 
bourhood of Constantinople, led by two generals 
named lUus and Romulus. Strabo undertook, in 
consideration of a heavy increase of pay, to put 
down the rising ; but he played the traitor after 
all, and joined the rebels in an unsuccessful at- 
tempt to take Constantinople. Soon afterwards he 
was accidentally killed, his horse having run away 
with him and thrown him against the point of a spear, 
which had been fixed before a tent. 

So now Theoderic the Amaling was freed from the 
rivalry of his troublesome namesake. His army was 
soon joined by the greater part of Strabo's followers, 
and he became so formidable and did so much 
damage to the empire that Zeno was glad to pur- 
chase his friendship at any price. In 483 the Ostro- 
goths received an ample grant of land near the 
Danube. Two years later, Theoderic marched against 
the rebel forces under lUus, and gained a complete 


victory, for which he was rewarded with a triumph and 
an equestrian statue at Constantinople. But very- 
soon the emperor and the king were quarrelling 
again, and the Ostrogoths took up arms and began 
to ravage the neighbourhood of Constantinople. 

At last, however, a settlement was arrived at which 
satisfied both parties. Zeno gave permission to 
Theoderic to go and wrest Italy from the hands of 
Odovacar, to establish his own people there, and to 
rule the country as the emperor's representative. 

This plan enabled Zeno to get rid of the Ostro- 
goths, whose expensive help was no longer necessary 
to him. At the same time, it was just what Theo- 
deric himself desired. Although circumstances had 
compelled him to become something like a bandit 
chief, it had always been his great ambition to be the 
king of a settled and civilized people. And now, with 
the express sanction of the sovereign whom he regarded 
as the rightful lord of the world, he was to place his 
subjects in that very land in which, more than in any 
other he might reasonably hope to mould them into 
a great nation, which should be as glorious in the 
arts and the virtues of peace as in those of war. 




It was in the year 488 that Theoderic received the 
emperor's permission to go to Italy and fight against 
Odovacar. He betook himself at once to his head- 
quarters at Novae, on the south bank of the Danube 
(near Sistova), and called on his people to make 
ready for emigrating into their " promised land." 
The preparations were quickly made, for the Ostro- 
goths had only been in Mcesia five years, and it was 
easy for them to resume the wandering life to which 
they had so long been accustomed. Theoderic was 
so eager to get to Italy that he began his march at 
the end of the autumn, thus exposing his people to 
suffer the hardships of winter in addition to those of 
a long journey over rugged mountains and through 
the territories of unfriendly tribes. 

It is thought that the people whom Theoderic led 
out of Mcesia numbered not less than a quarter of a 
million. For about three hundred miles this vast 
multitude, with all their cattle and their baggage, 
proceeded along the bank of the Danube without 
meeting opposition. But when they came to Singi- 
dunum, the place where Theoderic, when a boy, had 


gained his famous victory, their progress was stopped 
by the Gepids, who had now taken possession of the 
country which the Ostrogoths had occupied in King 
Walamer's and King Theudemer's days. 

Theoderic sent messengers to Thrafstila, king of the 
Gepids, asking permission for the Ostrogoths to pass 
through his country. Thrafstila refused, and there 
was a great battle near a river called Ulca. The 
ground was marshy, and at first the Gepids were 
beginning to win, because they knew the place better 
than the new-comers ; but Theoderic's own bravery 
inspired his soldiers with such enthusiasm that the 
defeat was changed into a complete victory. The 
Gepids had to forsake the field in confusion, and left 
behind them many waggons full of provisions, which 
the Ostrogoths were very glad to get hold of 

After the victory by the Ulca, Theoderic led his 
people along the river Save, and then over the steep 
passes of the Julian Alps. But however impatient 
the king might be to enter on his future kingdom, it 
was only possible to move very slowly forward, for 
amongst the throng were many thousands of women 
and young children, and more than once sickness broke 
out amongst them, and compelled them to interrupt 
their march. And so it was not until nearly a year 
after the beginning of their journey that the Ostro- 
gothic host stood ready to cross the Isonzo, the 
boundary-river of Italy. On the opposite bank of 
the stream they saw the powerful army of Odovacar 
encamped to prevent their passage. 

Theoderic's soldiers were weakened by their long 
journey and the hardships they had gone through on 


their way, but they still proved more than a match to 
Odovacar's followers — a disorderly crowd made up of 
a number of petty tribes, whos'e chiefs scorned to obey 
the orders of a commander whom they accounted no 
nobler than themselves. On August 28, 489, the 
Goths forced the passage of the river, and Odovacar 
retreated to Verona. 

After giving his army a little breathing-time, 
Theoderic broke up his camp near the ruins of Aqui- 
leia, and set out to make a second attack upon the 
enemy. It was on the 30th of September that the 
great battle of Verona was fought, which decided the 
fate of Odovacar's kingdom. On the morning ofrae 
battle Theoderic carefully dressed himself in his most 
splendid clothing, ornamented by the hands of his 
mother and his sister, saying with a smile that he 
hoped his bravery in the fight would show who he 
was, but at any rate his apparel should show it. 
Odovacar's men fought desperately, and the losses of 
the Ostrogoths were enormous. But once more the 
king's skilful leadership, and the animating example 
of his own dauntless courage, carried the day, and 
Odovacar fled in confusion. With the remnant of his 
army he endeavoured to find shelter within the walls 
of Rome ; but the senate had no mind to side with a 
beaten rebel against the victorious representative of 
the emperor, and ordered the gates to be closed. 
Odovacar then marched across the country, burning 
villages and destroying the crops, and took refuge 
in the impregnable fortress of Ravenna. Meanwhile 
Theoderic's victory had placed him in possession of 
the strong cities of Verona and Milan, and he soon 


received the submission of a large portion of Odova- 
car's army. 

Amongst the chiefs who deserted to Theoderic was 
a certain Tufa, who had held a high command in 
Odovacar's army. This man succeeded in thoroughly 
gaining Theoderic's confidence, and undertook, if he 
were entrusted with a large body of men, to besiege 
Odovacar in Ravenna. The king agreed to his 
proposal, and at Tufa's own request a number of 
Theoderic's principal officers were attached to the 
expedition. But before he reached the neighbour- 
hood of Ravenna Tufa deserted back again to his 
former sovereign, and Theoderic's officers were loaded 
with chains and sent to Odovacar, by whom they 
were kept for some time in prison, and then shame- 
fully murdered. The soldiers who had submitted to 
Theoderic when Odovacar's cause seemed hopeless 
now forsook him by thousands, and joined the army 
of Tufa. For a time it seemed as if the tide of for- 
'tune had turned, and Odovacar was, after all, going 
to recover his lost dominions. The Ostrogoths were 
compelled to abandon Milan and Verona, and to 
retire to the neighbourhood of Pavia. 

But Odovacar was unable to follow up his advan- 
tage. His followers, unlike those of his adversary, 
were a mere band of mercenaries, held together by 
no tie of national sentiment, and feeling little attach- 
ment to the person of their leader. They soon began 
to desert in large numbers ; and the quarrels between 
the generals rendered it impossible to take any 
effectual action. In August, 490, the arrival of a 
body of Visigoths sent by Alaric of Toulouse enabled 


Theoderic to inflict a crushing defeat upon his enemy, 
and before very long Odovacar was closely besieged 
in Ravenna. Just about this time it is said that an 
event took place which resembles that which is so 
gloomily celebrated in English history under the 
name of *' St. Brice's day." The partisans of the 
emperor, according to a concerted plan, massacred 
the supporters of Odovacar all over Italy. Before 
the year 490 had closed, the only important place in 
Italy, except Ravenna itself, which had not submitted 
to Theoderic was the seaport of Rimini (Ariminum) 
on the Adriatic. The senate at Rome despatched its 
most distinguished member, the consul Faustus, to 
Constantinople, to ask that Theoderic might be in- 
vested with the royal robes, and be authorized to 
bear the title of king of Italy. But when the envoy 
arrived at Constantinople the emperor Zeno was 
breathing his last, and the petition seems to have 
remained unanswered. 

It was not till the blockade of Ravenna had lasted 
for two years and a half that the pressure of famine 
compelled Odovacar to offer terms of surrender. The 
bishop of Ravenna acted as mediator, and Theoderic 
was so tired of the long siege that he was glad to 
agree to conditions which were extravagantly favour- 
able to his rival. It was stipulated that Odovacar 
should be allowed to live in Ravenna with the title of 
king, and should be treated, so far as pomp and 
ceremony were concerned, as the equal of his con- 
queror.^ His son Thelane, whom he had shortly 

' It was believed in the following century that Theoderic and Odovacar 
agreed to reign over Italy as joint sovereigns, but this seems incredible. 


before, in imitation of the example of Orestes, pro- 
claimed emperor of the West, were delivered up to the 
Ostrogoths as a hostage, and on March 5, 493, Theo- 
deric entered the city, and took possession of the 
imperial palace in " the Laurel-grove." 

The two kings met one another with a great show 
of friendliness, but before many days had passed 
Theoderic heard that Odovacar was plotting his 
assassination. At any rate that was what he said 
afterwards to justify his own cruel and treacherous 
action. On the 15th of March he invited his rival 
to a banquet at the " Laurel-grove" palace. In two 
side chambers to the right and the left of the seat 
which the royal guest was to occupy he placed armed 
men, who were instructed on hearing a certain signal 
to rush out and cut down Odovacar and his followers. 
As soon as Odovacar had taken his seat, two soldiers 
of Theoderic approached him, pretending that they 
wished to ask some favour from him, and seizing his 
hands as if in the eagerness of their entreaty. The 
signal was given, and the armed men came into the 
hall, but when they saw that their business was to be 
the murder of a defenceless man, and not, as they had 
expected, the frustration of an attack upon their own 
king, they stood as if stupefied. Theoderic then drew 
his sword, and raised it to strike Odovacar. " Where 
is God ? " exclaimed the unhappy victim. " This is 
how you treated my friends ! " shouted Theoderic, 
and dealt him such a violent blow on the collar-bone 
that the body was almost cut in two. Theoderic 
looked with astonishment at the effect of his stroke, 
and said with an inhuman sneer, " The poor wretch 


must have had no bones." Thus died Odovacar, at 
the age of sixty years. He was buried outside the 
city, in a piece of ground which was close to the Jews 
synagogue, and was deemed to be polluted by the 
neighbourhood of infidel worship. His wife, Suni- 
gilda, was starved to death in prison, and his son was 
sent as a prisoner to King Alaric at Toulouse, but 
afterwards escaped to Italy and was there killed. 

We have told this sad story of Odovacar's end as it 
is related by a historian of the seventh century. It 
contains some things that sound rather improbable, 
and we would fain hope that some of the circum- 
stances of treachery and brutality have been exag- 
gerated. When we think how gloriously Theoderic 
reigned over Italy for thirty-three years, how he 
laboured to secure the happiness of his subjects, and 
how Goths and Romans alike acknowledged the 
even-handed justice of his rule, we cannot help 
believing that the act by which he gained his king- 
dom was not altogether the cold-blooded treason 
which his account represents it to have been. Noth- 
ing that we know of Odovacar, on the other hand, 
forbids us to think him capable of plotting the murder 
of the rival with whom he had sworn peace and 
friendship. If Theoderic had indeed discovered evi- 
dence of such a plot we can scarcely wonder that he 
should be moved to take violent means to render its 
execution impossible. But whatever may be said in 
palliation of the murder of Odovacar, we cannot help 
feeling sorry that the reign of the great Theoderic 
should have begun with this fierce and lawless deed, 



Once more we have to l^-ment the truth of Milton's 
saying, that the victories of peace are "less renowned " 
than those of war. Far more interesting, if it could 
only be told, than the records of all the battles which 
Theoderic ever won, would be the story of the peaceful 
achievements which followed. By what means the 
Gothic usurper succeeded in giving order and pros- 
perity to the land so long the prey of lawlessness and 
oppression, by what arts he so won the hearts of his 
subjects, both Romans and Goths, that when he died 
he was mourned as no ruler had been for centuries 
past, are questions which history gives us very im- 
perfect answers. 

The earliest act of Theoderic's which we read of 
after the death of Odovacar did not seem to promise 
well for the wisdom and gentleness of his rule. He 
published an edict by which all those Romans who 
had in any way exhibited any sympathy with 
Odovacar against himself should be deprived of their 
privileges as citizens, including the right of disposing 
of their own property by will. This measure was felt 
to be a great injustice, because many of those whom 
it affected had supported the cause of Odovacar 


under compulsion, and were quite ready, if treated 
with kindness and consideration, to become faithful 
subjects of the new king. 

Fortunately the sufferers by this edict found a 
powerful intercessor. When, during the war with 
Odovacar, Theoderic had taken up his quarters in the 
city of Pavia, he had had a great deal of intercourse 
with the bishop Epiphanius, and, though the bishop 
was a Catholic, the holiness of his character had 
inspired in the king's mind the profoundest venera- 
tion. " There is not such a man in all the east," 
Theoderic said ; " it is a privilege even to have seen 
him." It was this venerable man whom the Romans 
begged to plead their cause. Accompanied by Lau- 
rentius, bishop of Milan, he journeyed to Ravenna, 
and sought an audience of the king, who received him 
with every mark of honour, and listened with great 
attention to his speech. Epiphanius reminded Theo- 
deric (not without some dexterous flattery mingled 
with his admonitions) of the many signs of Divine 
favour which had attended his career in Italy, and 
exhorted him to testify his gratitude by imitating the 
Divine example of mercy. He urged that Odovacar 
had fallen because of the harshness and injustice of 
his rule, and counselled Theoderic to be warned by 
the fate of his predecessor, concluding with an appeal 
which might almost be translated in the familiar 
words : 

" Consider this, 
That in the course of justice none of us 
Should see salvation : we do pray for rriercy, 
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render 
The deeds of mercy." 


There was a pause of some moments after the 
bishop had spoken, and every one present awaited 
the king's reply with deep anxiety. Theoderic began 
by saying that it was not always that the necessities 
of government permitted of the exercise of mercy, 
and by appealing to the Scriptural example of Saul, 
who incurred the Divine wrath by his ill-timed com- 
passion for a vanquished enemy. But he added that 
as heaven itself yielded to the bishop's prayers, no 
mere earthly power could resist them : and he ordered 
his secretary to prepare a decree of general amnesty. 

Theoderic certainly could have taken no better 
means of winning the goodwill of his new subjects. 
And the fact that this act of mercy had been granted 
to the entreaties of a Catholic bishop made a great 
impression on the minds of the Catholics, and did 
much to soften the prejudice which was naturally 
felt against the heretic king. 

After this question was decided, Theoderic had a 
private conversation with Epiphanius, in which he 
spoke of the deep grief he felt on account of the 
wretched condition into which Italy had been brought 
by continual war. He referred especially to the mis- 
fortunes which had befallen the bishop's own northern 
diocese through the invasion of the Burgunds, who, in 
490, had carried away large numbers of the peasantry 
as prisoners into Gaul. '' I know," said Theoderic to 
the bishop, "that Gundobad, king of the BurgundS) 
has a great desire to see you ; if you go to plead the 
cause of the Italian captives he will be persuaded to 
set them free, and I will supply you with money 
sufficient for their ransom." 


Epiphanius was moved to tears by this proof of the 
king's interest in the people whose welfare lay so near 
to his own heart. He eagerly accepted the commis- 
sion that was offered to him, and at once set out, 
braving the bitter cold of March, across the Alps to 
visit King Gundobad at Lyons. The king received 
him graciously, and granted the free release of all 
those captives who were under his own control. 
Those who were slaves belonging to private persons 
had to be ransomed with Theoderic's gold. From 
Lyons the bishop went to Geneva, where he had the 
same success with the other Burgund king Godegisel ; 
and he was accompanied to Italy by many thousands 
of the rescued captives, who returned to bring back to 
fertility their long-deserted fields, and, we may be 
sure, to invoke blessings on the name of their deliverer 
Theoderic. Not to leave his work incomplete, the 
king bestowed large gifts of seed-corn and of cattle 
upon the returned peasants. 

The first great problem that the king had to 
encounter was how to satisfy the claims of his 
Gothic soldiers for lands in reward of their services, 
without exciting rebellion amongst the Roman pro- 
prietors at whose expense these grants were made. 
It was, however, fortunate for Theoderic that his 
predecessor had already despoiled the Roman land- 
owners of a third of their estates, so that for the most 
part the Goths had only to step into possession of the 
share which Odovacar's men had held, and the Roman 
lord was no poorer than he had been for thirteen years 
previously. The king, moreover, wisely placed the 
carrying out of this measure for the Gothic settlement 


in the hands of a distinguished Roman named Liberius, 
who had been one of Odovacar's ministers, and who 
knew how to manage the matter so as to spare his 
countrymen's feelings as much as possible. Theoderic 
had a great respect for Liberius, and, in a letter to the 
senate some time after his death, he praises him 
especially for his honesty in never concealing his grief 
for Odovacar in order to curry favour with Odovacar's 
enemy and successor. Only a man of real nobleness 
of mind would have singled out such a characteristic 
for praise in a public document, and this is one of the 
many things which lead us to believe that the deed 
by which Theoderic gained the crown was not the 
shameful treachery that it is recorded to have been. 
Theoderic goes on to say that the goodwill and 
harmony which existed between Goths and Romans 
was very largely due to the tact and skill with which 
Liberius conducted the division of the estates and the 
apportionment of the burdens of taxation. 

Although Theoderic did not care to run the risk of 
offending both his Goths and the Court of Constanti- 
nople by calling himself Caesar or Emperor, yet those 
titles would have exactly expressed the character of 
his rule — so far at least as his Roman subjects were 
concerned. When the Emperor Anastasius in 497 
acknowledged him as ruler of Italy, he sent him the 
purple cloak and the diadem of the Western emperors ; 
and the act showed that Anastasius quite understood 
the difference between Theoderic's government and 
that of Odovacar. In fact, though not in name, the 
Western empire had been restored with much the 
same institutions as it had had under the best of the 



C^sars. Although the army was Gothic, the great 
offices of state were filled by Romans, and the senate, 
if it had less real power than it had sometimes 
managed to obtain under weaker sovereigns, was 
treated with a show of respect and deference which 
was some consolation for its political insignificance. 
Its members were appointed to act as judges in the 
courts, and in all cases in which Romans were con- 
cerned the Roman law still retained its authority. 

One great evil from which the Roman Empire had 
suffered for many reigns past was the illegal exactions 
on the part of the officers entrusted with the collec- 
tion of revenue. So long as the emperors could raise 
the money they wanted, they had cared little how 
their officials might enrich themselves by extortion. 
Theoderic kept a strict watch on the conduct of his 
officials. All persons who had grievances against them 
were encouraged to bring forward their complaints ; 
rigorous inquiries were made, and the accused, if found 
guilty, were severely punished. It was the king's 
special study so to apportion the taxes that the burden 
fell as equally as possible, and — unlike the Eastern 
emperors of the same period, who were notorious for 
always exacting " the uttermost farthing " — he was 
always ready to grant exemptions or reductions of 
taxation to districts that were suffering from bad 
harvests or similar causes of distress. The official 
letters of Theoderic's secretary Cassiodorus make us 
acquainted with many of these timely acts of gene- 
rosity, which contributed more than anything else to 
make the Roman subjects submit gladly to the rule of 
the barbarian king. One interesting instance of the 


same kind is known to us from another source, the 
biography of Epiphanius, the Catholic bishop of Pavia, 
whom we have already spoken of as being greatly 
respected by Theoderic. In the year 496 the people 
of Epiphanius's diocese had had their crops destroyed 
by floods, and the good bishop once more journeyed 
to Ravenna to plead the cause of his beloved flock. 
Theoderic listened with sympathy to the story of the 
sufferings of the people, and though he talked a good 
deal about the difficulties that lay in the way of 
making a sacrifice of revenue, he gladdened the 
bishop's heart by consenting to reduce the taxes for 
that year to one-third of their amount. Epiphanius 
returned to Pavia with the good news, but the re- 
joicings of his people were soon mixed with sorrow, 
for a few days after his arrival he died from the effects 
of a cold taken during his journey. 

The one great obstacle to Theoderic's popularity 
was that he was an Arian, while the great mass of his 
Roman subjects were Catholics. But in his govern- 
ment he never allowed himself to make any difference 
between the two parties. One of his most honoured 
Gothic generals, Ibba, was a Catholic ; and the Catholic 
clergy, if they were by their character worthy of their 
office, were regarded by him with as much respect 
as those of his own creed. This tolerant conduct was 
not merely adopted because Theoderic feared to offend 
the Catholics. He had really a profound conviction 
of the truth, known to so few in his age, that kings 
have no right to meddle with the religious faith of 
their subjects, and that persecution, though it may 
make men hypocrites, will never make them sincere 


believers. The best proof that Theoderic's toleration 
was a matter of principle is seen in his conduct 
towards the Jews. Ever since the Roman Empire 
had become Christian, this unhappy people had been 
subjected to cruel persecution, and even the Visigoths 
in Gaul had shamefully oppressed them. If Theoderic 
had followed this bad example he would no doubt 
have been applauded both by the Romans and by 
many of his own countrymen. But he had courage 
and firmness enough not only to announce publicly 
that " the benefits of justice are not to be denied even 
to those who err from the faith," but to act up to this 
maxim in the most uncompromising manner. In one 
instance a Jew at Rome had been murdered by his 
Christian slaves. The perpetrators of the crime were 
condemned to death. The people of the city could 
hardly believe that such a monstrous sentence would 
be carried out, and, when the execution actually took 
place, the mob made a furious attack on the Jews, and 
burnt their synagogue. The offenders were brought 
before the senate for trial, and pleaded the many acts 
of extortion of which they said the Jews had been 
guilty. They were told that these complaints were 
nothing to the purpose ; if the Jews had acted illegally 
the courts were open, but acts of violence would meet 
with due punishment, whether committed upon Jew 
or Gentile. Another case of synagogue burning 
occurred at Ravenna, and in that instance the build- 
ing had to be restored at the expense of those who 
had destroyed it, while those of the offenders who had 
not means to pay were whipped through the streets. 
In some places the Jews had been robbed of their 



synagogues by Christian priests, who had converted 
the buildings Into churches, and now argued that 
twenty or thirty years' possession gave a title to the 
ownership. But Theoderic would listen to no such 
reasoning ; the churches had to be restored to their 
original use, notwithstanding all the fierce indignation 
dF the Christians, few of whom had any sympathy 
with the spirit of the text, " I hate robbery for burnt- 
oiTering." It is true that Theoderic, or his secretary, 
when writing to the Jews to announce some conces- 
sion or act of justice In their favour, generally takes 
the opportunity to lecture them on the sin of unbelief, 
and to express compassion for their gloomy prospects 
in the next world. But he is always careful to add 
that their perversity in this respect Is no reason for 
treating them with injustice. One of his letters written 
on an occasion of this kind ends with the significant 
words, " Religion is not a thing which we can com- 
mand, because no man can be compelled to believe 
against his will." It is to Theoderic's eternal honour 
that he was willing to brave the fierce Indignation of 
the vast majority of his subjects for the sake of doing 
justice to a weak and oppressed people. 

We have already said that Theoderic, though bear- 
ing the title only of king, aspired to fulfil the perfect 
Ideal of a Roman Caesar. He did not neglect to 
display the bounty and magnificence which were 
appropriate to the character. You remember how 
" Bread and Circus games " was the demand which the 
Roman populace used to make of their rulers in the 
palmy days of the empire. It was long since these 
demands had been satisfied by imperial generosity, 


but now once more the poor of Rome and the other 
Italian cities received their periodical gifts of food, 
and the public spectacles were exhibited with some- 
thing like their ancient splendour, though happily 
without the cruel fights of gladiators, in which the 
heathen world delighted. The king himself took great 
pleasure in the theatre and in exhibitions of gymnastic 

To those who are accustomed to regard " the 
Goths" as tasteless destroyers of the vestiges of 
ancient civilization, it will seem strange to be told 
of the extraordinary zeal which Theoderic displayed 
in the preservation of the buildings and statues of 
antiquity. But perhaps there had never been a 
Roman emperor who was so anxiously concerned 
about this matter as this barbarian king. In the 
official letters of his secretary Cassiodorus we find 
continual proofs of Theoderic's endeavours to arrest 
the destruction of the works of ancient art. Judging 
him by his conduct in this respect, we might fairly 
say that he was the first civilized ruler that Italy had 
had for centuries. The Christian emperors had allowed 
their subjects to use the temples and other public 
edifices of heathen days as quarries for their own 
buildings, and not seldom had they been themselves 
guilty of pulling down venerable historical monu- 
ments to erect new buildings in their place. Theoderic 
indignantly forbade this work of waste and ruin. He 
was himself a great builder, and bestowed honours 
and rewards freely on those who adorned the cities 
with splendid works of architecture ; but it was a 
saying of his that " reverently to preserve the old was 

[Commenced by Theoderic in 525 ; completed under PVitigis in 539 ) 


even better than to build afresh." Except an act of 
extortion or oppression on the part of one of his own 
officials, nothing excited his anger so fiercely as any 
wanton destruction of works of art. On one occasion 
he was informed that a bronze statue had been stolen 
from a public place at Como during the night. In hot 
haste he writes to Thankila the senator (from his 
name evidently a Gothic officer, and apparently 
governor of the city), ordering him to offer a reward of 
a hundred gold pieces for the discovery of the perpe- 
trator, and to have a strict inquiry made of all the 
metal smiths of the town, as it was probable that such 
a theft could not have been carried out without 
skilled assistance. This letter was promptly followed 
by another, in which a free pardon was offered to the 
guilty person if he confessed and made restitution, 
otherwise, in the event of a discovery, the penalty 
was to be death. In the year 500 Theoderic spent 
six months at Rome, and in his letters he often refers 
to the profound admiration which had been inspired 
in him by the contemplation of th6 treasures of 
ancient art. The grandeur of the forum of Trajan, 
especially, is often mentioned by him. While at 
Rome, he decreed that a sum of 200 pounds weight 
of gold (£8,000 sterling, or 40,000 dollars) should be 
set apart every year for the repair of the walls and 
the public buildings. It used to be the fashion to 
blame " the Goths " for the destruction of the monu- 
ments of ancient Rome ; but the truth is that we are 
indebted to a Gothic king for the preservation of 
many a noble building which, but for his pious care, 
would have totally disappeared. 


Theoderic was earnestly desirous that his reign 
should be distinguished, not only as a period in which 
the ancient masterpieces were protected and valued, 
but also as a period of original artistic productiveness. 
In this it was impossible for him to succeed, for in the 
many years of misery and disorder from which Italy, 
and the Roman world generally, had suffered, the 
nobler arts had fallen into hopeless decline. But at 
any rate he spared no labour or cost in seeking out 
and rewarding the best architects, sculptors, and 
painters that could be found ; and one branch of art, 
namely, mosaic-work, may be said to have attained per- 
haps its highest level in his reign. When we read of the 
enormous number of works which Theoderic carried 
out — building of churches, theatres, palaces, public 
baths, not only in Rome, Ravenna, and Verona, the 
three capitals of his kingdom^ but in many of the 
smaller cities of Italy — we are at first tempted to 
accuse him of recklessly lavish expenditure ; but we 
are informed that although he found the treasury 
deeply in debt, his wise management not only enabled 
him to find money for all these costly undertakings, 
but to leave the finances of the kingdom in a 
thoroughly prosperous condition. 

Although Theoderic was not so ignorant of books 
as he is commonly said to have been, it is not likely 
that he had any great appreciation of literature. But 
to protect and encourage literature was part of the 
duty of a pattern Roman emperor, and Theoderic 
was not wanting in this respect. The age was one of 
miserable degeneracy, in letters even more than in 
art ; but the principal writers and scholars of the 


time, such as they were, were all rewarded by Theo- 
deric with honours and official rank. There was 
Cassiodorus, whom he made his " quaestor " and sec- 
retary of state — an orator, historian, theologian, and 
grammarian, many of whose waitings still exist. 
Poor enough in literary merit they certainly are, but 
they show a good knowledge of classical literature, 
and give us besides a very favourable impression of 
the author's upright and kindly character. His 
twelve books of official letters, written in the names 
of Theoderic and his successors, are of great value to 
the historian, though they are perhaps the most 
bombastic State papers ever known in Europe, not 
excepting the Latin charters of some of the Anglo- 
Saxon kings. One work of his which has unfortu- 
nately perished in his " History of the Goths," of 
which the history by Jordanes, so often quoted in 
the early part of this book, is a very clumsy abridge- 
ment. Jordanes says that he had managed to get a 
loan of Cassiodorus's history for three days, and that 
his own book was written chiefly from the hasty 
notes he had been able to make in that time. 

There was also Symmachus, famed in his own 
day for learning and eloquence, the author of a 
Roman history in seven books, which has not been 
preserved. Theoderic gave him the office of Prefect 
of the city of Rome and of patrican. We shall in a 
future chapter have to tell how Symmachus was put 
to death on suspicion of treason, sharing the fate 
of his more renowned son-in-law, the philosopher 

Of Boethius himself there is much more to be said, 


for he is by far the greatest literary name of Theo- 
deric's reign, or indeed of the whole sixth century. 
Of noble rank, and born to great wealth, he devoted 
his leisure to the study of science, and to the task of 
rendering the treasures of Greek learning accessible 
to his countrymen. It was from his translations and 
commentaries that the Western world became ac- 
quainted with the writings of Aristotle on logic, which 
had so powerful an influence that they set all the 
great minds of Europe, for eight or nine centuries, 
studying nothing else than the theory of reasoning 
and subtle questions of metaphysics, which were 
profitless because unanswerable, even if they had any 
rational meaning at all. He also translated Greek 
treatises on music, astronomy, and mathematics ; he 
wrote poetry and books on theological controversy, 
and his skill in mechanics was greater than that of 
any man of his time. When quite a young man he 
was made, by Theoderic, consul and patrician, and 
afterwards " Master of the Offices " ; and for many 
years there was no man whom the king more deeply 
honoured and esteemed. How this career of pros- 
perity and dignity came to a sudden end — how Boe- 
thius was accused of treason, judged guilty, and 
condemned to death — we shall relate further on. 

Theoderic's great anxiety, however, was to restore 
to Italy its long-lost material prosperity and plenty. 
Of course when the country was firmly and justly 
ruled, and the people had protection against violence 
and fraud, there was very soon a revival of agricul- 
ture and trade. Theoderic was eager to help on this 
revival by active means. He encouraged the opening 


of iron mines in Dalmatia, and gold mines in the south 
of Italy. He assisted the development of the shipbuild- 
ing and fishing industries. He promoted the draining 
of the marshes at Terracina and Spoleto, and granted 
the reclaimed land, free from taxes, to those who had 
borne the cost of the undertaking. He spent large 
sums yearly in the repair of the highways, and in the 
restoration of the old aqueducts and the building of 
new ones. The extortions of the custom-house 
officers, which in the days of the empire (as Cassio- 
dorus says) " foreign merchants had dreaded more 
than shipwreck," were now firmly put down, and the 
import duties were assessed by a committee, among 
whose members were the bishop and several influen- 
tial citizens of the seaport town. A uniform standard 
of weights and measures was introduced ; the coinage, 
which had been debased, was restored to its proper 
value, and the uttering of false money was severely 

Some other things which Theoderic did with the 
same object do not seem to have been equally well 
advised. He appointed in every town a committee, 
consisting of the bishop and some of the citizens, to 
fix the price of articles of food, and inflicted severe 
punishment on all tradesmen who ventured to charge 
higher rates. The exporting of corn from Italy was 
forbidden under heavy penalties ; and if a corn mer- 
chant was found "speculating for a rise," as it is 
called, that is to say, buying up a large quantity of 
grain when it was cheap, in order to sell it at a great 
profit when it became dearer, the king compelled 
him to sell out his stock immediately at cost price. 


No doubt these measures did more harm than good ; 
but they were well meant, and show how zealously 
Theoderic strove to promote the welfare of his sub- 
jects, especially of the poorer part of them. And on 
the whole his philanthropic policy was wonderfully 
successful. In after times people looked back to the 
reign of Theoderic as to a period of almost fabulous 
plenty and prosperity. 

So much for Theoderic's relations with his Roman 
subjects. With the Goths his relations were to some 
extent different. Though they lived amongst the 
Romans, the Goths did not become blended with 
them ; they were still a separate nation, with their 
separate laws and a separate system of government. 
Just as in their earlier days, the army and the nation 
were really the same thing ; the officers who led the 
people in war judged and ruled them in peace. It 
must be remembered that Theoderic had no soldiers 
except his Goths ; the native Italians were not 
allowed to enter the army. The Goths of each 
province were governed by a military chief, called 
the " Count of the Goths," who in time of peace was 
accountable only to the king himself. When a law- 
suit arose between Goth and Goth, it was judged by 
the count, according to Gothic law ; while cases 
between Goth and Roman were tried before the count 
and a Roman judge sitting together. 

But still the political constitution of the Ostro- 
gothic kingdom had undergone a great change. 
The Gothic warriors had gained a settled home, 
lands, and money ; but they had paid for these 
advantages by the loss of their ancient freedom. 


Their popular assembly met no more to make laws 
or to decide the policy of the State. The king acted 
as he chose, without asking their advice or consent. 
Over Goths as well as Romans, though under dif- 
ferent forms, Theoderic reigned as a despot — a just 
and merciful despot, indeed, but a despot neverthe- 
less. Although, as we have said, the two nations 
were governed in the main according to their own 
laws, Theoderic issued a brief code of his own, which 
so far as its provisions extended was binding both on 
Romans and Goths. This code was chiefly founded 
on the law of the Roman Empire, but many points in 
it are plainly of Theoderic's own devising. No offences, 
we can well believe, were so hateful to the Gothic 
king's justice-loving soul as the taking of bribes by 
judges and the bringing of false accusations of crime. 
The first of these, under the Roman law, had been 
punished by transportation to an island and confis- 
cation of property. Theoderic (who significantly 
makes it the subject of the very first paragraph of 
his edict) decreed that the penalty should be death. 
The emperors had already -punished the false accuser 
with death ; in the new law he is ordered to be burnt 
alive. On the other hand, some of Theoderic's alte- 
rations of the Roman code are on the side of mercy. 
The later emperors had enacted that when a man 
was condemned for any crime, his property should be 
forfeited to the State, unless he had parents or 
children. Theoderic ordained that if the condemned 
man had relatives as far as the third degree their 
right to inheritance should be undisturbed. 

The Ostrogoths sometimes murmured over the loss 


of their freedom ; perhaps they may sometimes have 
been indignant at the severity with which the king 
punished all lawlessness on their part, all insulting or 
oppressive conduct towards their Italian fellow- sub- 
jects. But they never rebelled, though as the only 
armed people in the kingdom they had every oppor- 
tunity of doing so successfully. If they blamed the 
king for taking away their liberties, they could not 
help seeing that he was no selfish tyrant, but a ruler 
who laboured zealously and wisely for the common 
good of all. If he was stern to wrong-doers, they 
knew that he did not neglect to honour and reward 
faithful service ; and they had learned to value the 
blessings of ordered and settled life too well to think 
of overthrowing the sovereign to whose firmness and 
sagacity their enjoyment of these blessings was due. 

Theoderic did not, as has sometimes been thought, 
endeavour to unite the Goths and the Romans into one 
nation. Perhaps he may have hoped that such a union 
would at some time be realized under his successors. 
But in his own day he was content that the two peo- 
ples should live together in mutual friendship and 
respect, each of them being charged with its own 
special function in the commonwealth. The Goths 
were to undertake the defence of the country from 
attack, the maintenance of order, and the execution 
of the law ; the Romans were to labour for the de- 
velopment of art and science ; while in the cultivation 
of the soil both nations were to take their part. So 
long as Theoderic lived this ideal seems to have been 
in a great degree realized. ♦ 

It is no wonder that Theoderic became the subject 


of many fabulous stones, and that tradition repre- 
sented his reign as having been almost a kingdom 
of heaven upon earth. Even before the sixth century / 
closed, men told in Italy nearly the same story that 
was told in England respecting the days of Alfred — 
how the great king had so made righteousness to pre- 
vail in his realm that gold pieces could be left exposed 
on the highway for a year and a day without being 
stolen. Many of his sayings were quoted as proverbs 
in the land, and anecdotes were related to show how, 
like Solomon in the matter of the two mothers and 
their infants, Theoderic had displayed in the judg- 
ment seat his wonderful insight into human nature. 
But it was not in Italy or amongst the Goths that 
his legendary fame reached its highest point. The 
whole Teutonic race regarded his glory as their own, 
and his imagined deeds were the theme of popular 
songs in all the German lands. The story of " Diet- 
rich of Bern " (the High German way of pronouncing 
" Theoderic of Verona ") is indeed, as told in the 
poems, very different from the history of the real 
Theoderic. He is described as the vassal of Attila 
and the foe of Ermanaric, who is partly confounded 
with Odovacar ; and in some of the songs "Dietrich" 
is even represented as vanquished, and as a fugitive or 
a captive. But amid all this strange distortion of the 
history, the character of the legendary Dietrich is 
essentially that of the Gothic king. A lover of peace 
and justice, he never takes the sword save unwillingly 
and at the call of duty; but when he is once prevailed 
upon to fight there is none more fearless and more 
terrible than he. The traditions embodied in popular 




poetry are generally wildly confused with regard to 
the order of events, but the accounts they give of the 
characters of famous men are often wonderfully true. 
Probably it is not without good reason that the German 
songs have confounded Odovacar with the cruel and 
treacherous Ermanaric. 

The reign of Theoderic is perhaps the finest exam- 
ple in all history of what is called a " beneficent 
despotism." No freer system of government could 
under the circumstances have produced such wonderful 
results ; perhaps with a freer system Theoderic could 
not have established or maintained his kingdom at all. 
But the efficiency of the government depended wholly 
on the wisdom and energy of one man, and it might 
easily have been foreseen that grave troubles would 
arise when the sceptre passed into weaker hands. For 
this reason a great historian ^ has described Theoderic's 
whole policy as " a blunder of genius " ; and we can 
hardly deny that this harsh and exaggerated judg- 
ment has in it something of truth. Even the great 
king himself, in the last three years of his life, when 
his marvellous vigour of mind had been impaired by 
age, found himself involved in perplexities with which 
he was unable to deal. But the sad story of the mis- 
takes that tarnished the lustre of a glorious reign must 
be reserved for a future chapter. 

' F. Dahn. 




The more Italy prospered under Theoderic's wise 
and kindly rule, the more she became a tempting prize 
to the ambition of foreign kings. Theoderic knew 
this well ; and he knew besides that the military 
strength of his kingdom was after all only small. The 
Ostrogothic army was far inferior in numbers to that 
of the Franks alone ; and if it should happen that 
the kings of Europe should discover his weakness, and 
should band themselves together for an united attack 
upon the kingdom, there was little hope that he would 
be able to resist them by force of arms. It would have 
been of no avail for him to labour for the well-being 
of his subjects, if a foreign conqueror were to overrun 
the land, and bring to ruin the fabric of order and 
prosperity which he had raised. And if even if he 
could have been sure of vanquishing every foe that 
came against him in the field, he knew that the suc- 
cess of his noble plans was only possible so long as he 
could ensure the continuance of peace. Famous war- 
rior though he had been in earlier days, no visions of 
military glory blinded his perception of what was his 
kingdom's one overwhelming need. 

The great aim of Theoderic's foreign policy was 


therefore to attach all the Teutonic kings to himself 
by ties of friendship, and to make them look up to 
him as a superior, with whom it was unwise to quarrel. 
He connected his family by marriage with nearly every 
royal house in Europe. His sister was given in marriage 
to Thrasamund, king of the Vandals, and his niece to 
the Thuringian king, Ermanfrid. One of his daughters 
became the wife of Alaric of Toulouse, and another 
was married to Sigismund, the heir, and afterwards the 
successor of Gundobad, king of the Burgunds. The 
mother of these princesses, who does not seem to have 
been regarded as Theoderic's lawful wife, was dead, 
and he married Audafleda, the sister of Clovis. 

It may be mentioned here that Audafleda had only 
one child, a daughter named Amalaswintha. The idea 
of hereditary succession to the throne was now begin- 
ning to be much more fully recognized among the 
Teutonic peoples than it had been anciently, and 
Amalaswintha was therefore regarded as heiress of the 
kingdom. When Amalaswintha grew up to woman- 
hood, the question who should be her husband was a 
very important one, for it practically involved the 
succession to the kingdom. If her father had bestowed 
her on a prince of any other royal house, the Ostro- 
goths would have felt that they were sold into the 
hands of a foreign nation ; and if he had chosen one 
of his own generals, or some Roman noble, he would 
have excited jealousies that would very likely have 
proved dangerous. However, Theoderic found a way 
out of the difficulty that seems to have satisfied every 
one. At the court of the Visigoth king there was an 
Amaling prince named Eutharic, the great-grandson 


of that King Thorismund, after whose death the throne 
of the Ostrogoth had remained vacant for forty years, 
until their Hunnish masters allowed them to choose a 
king once more. Now according to the new-fashioned 
principle of inheritance, this Eutharic had a better 
right to be king than Theoderic himself, and when the 
latter died there would very likely be a party ready to 
support his claim. So Theoderic prudently invited 
this prince into Italy, and by marrying him to Ama- 
laswintha united the two branches of the Amaling 
stock. Eutharic was entrusted with important offices 
in the kingdom, and he seems to have been a man of 
some vigour and capacity for government. His 
liberality and magnificence won him many friends 
among the Romans, though the Catholic writers say 
he was a bigoted Arian, and not at all disposed to 
follow his father-in-law's policy of toleration. How- 
ever, Eutharic died a few years before Theoderic, 
leaving a son named Athalaric, who while yet an in- 
fant was proclaimed king of Italy. 

It was Theoderic's wish that the Teutonic peoples 
of Europe should form a sort of league, bound together 
by the brotherhood of rclce, and by the family con- 
nections of their kings. The Ostrogoths of course 
were to be at the head of the league, and enlightened 
by the traditions of Roman statesmanship which they 
inherited as possessors of the Western empire, were to 
lead the kindred peoples along the path of civilization. 
Like all Theoderic's schemes, this magnificent plan 
could only be worked by a man of genius. But while 
the man of genius lived it was wonderfully successful. 
The kings of the other Teutonic peoples — Franks, 



Visigoths, Vandals, and the rest — looked up with re- 
spect to the sovereign of Rome ; they sought his medi- 
ation in their quarrels, and allowed him to write to 
them in the tone of a superior. If they did not always 
follow the counsels which he gave, they at least re- 
ceived them with abundant professions of deference 
and gratitude. 

But notwithstanding Theoderic's love of peace, the 
annals of his reign include two great foreign wars — 
one with Constantinople, the other with the Franks 
— which together occupied about five years. 

The war with the Eastern empire began in this way. 
Theoderic had been endeavouring to secure his north- 
eastern frontier, which, as he knew from the success 
of his own invasion, was the weakest point of his 
kingdom. In order to make himself safe against any 
possible designs on the part of the emperor, he culti- 
vated the friendship of the petty chiefs who ruled in 
the neighbourhood of the old dividing line between 
the two empires. Amongst these was a certain 
Mundo the Hun, a descendant, it was said, of Attila. 
He was a sort of brigand captain, who had assumed 
the title of king somewhere in the district now known 
as Servia. The Gepids, who were still inhabiting the 
neighbourhood of the river Save, refused Theoderic's 
offers of alliance, and made an attack upon his 
territories. In the year 504 Theoderic sent an army 
against the Gepids, under a commander named Pitzia, 
who soon captured their chief fortress of Sirmium, 
and compelled their king Thrasaric to acknowledge 
himself Theoderic's vassal. Just at the same time, 
the emperor Anastasius, having heard that Mundo 


had been committing depredations on the neighbour- 
ing lands of the empire, sent against him his general 
Sabinianus. The imperial troops, assisted by the 
Bulgars — this famous nation is now for the first time 
mentioned in history — had almost succeeded in com- 
pelling Mundo to surrender, when Pitzia appeared in 
defence of his master's ally, and inflicted on the 
emperor's general a crushing defeat. Amongst the 
Goths who specially distinguished themselves in this 
campaign was a young officer named Thulwin, who 
afterwards became one of Theoderic's closest friends. 

By way of revenge for this discomfiture, Anastasius 
caused his fleet to ravage the south of Italy. Theo- 
deric was at first unprepared to defend himself against 
this attack, but he soon succeeded in forming a naval 
force which compelled Anastasius to leave him un- 
molested. After the year 508 the peace between 
Anastasius and Theoderic was not again broken, and 
under the succeeding emperor, Justin, the relations 
between Constantinople and Ravenna were still more 

Before Theoderic had done with this quarrel, he 
found himself drawn into another, the consequences 
of which were of much greater importance. This 
time his adversary was the king of the Franks. 

The rapidly growing power of Clovis, and his 
evident unscrupulousness and ambition, had long 
been regarded by Theoderic with well-founded alarm. 
In the year 496 Clovis had gained a decisive victory 
over the Alamans, the German nation from whom in 
modern French all Germans have received the name 
of AUemands. Theoderic sent a letter to the con- 


queror, offering him his congratulations, but earnestly 
entreating him to deal mercifully with the vanquished. 
Although Clovis might make a show of receiving 
these exhortations respectfully, he paid little attention 
to them in practice, and Theoderic granted to the 
persecuted Alamans a new home in the northern part 
of his own dominions — in Rha^tia, or what is now 
known as Southern Bavaria. Clovis pursued his 
career of conquest ; in a few years he had subdued 
the Burgunds, and was threatening to bring the 
combined armies of Franks and Burgunds to the 
subjugation of the Visigoths. 

Theoderic laboured earnestly to prevent the out- 
break of war between Clovis and Alaric. To the 
former he wrote " as a father and as a friend," ex- 
horting him not to engage in a fratricidal conflict the 
result of which was uncertain, and which could bring 
him no true glory ; and he added that if Clovis de- 
clared war he should consider the act as an insult to 
himself. To Alaric, on the other hand, he laid stress 
on the danger of rushing unprepared into the struggle, 
and urged him to make every honourable concession, 
and not to draw the sword until the efforts which he 
himself was making to bring Clovis to reason should 
have proved unavailing. 

But it was all in vain that Theoderic exerted his 
powers of persuasion. The Prankish king was bent 
on war. Alaric, indeed, was only too willing to yield, 
but he soon saw that no concession would save him. 
We have already related the sad story of the war of 
the year 507 — how the Visigothic king was compelled 
by his generals to risk a battle without waiting for 


Theoderic's promised aid, and how the result was the 
death of Alaric and the conquest of his Gaulish 
dominions by the Franks. 

It was the war with Anastasius that prevented 
Theoderic from intervening in time to save Alaric 
from ruin. As soon as peace was concluded with the 
emperor, in June, 508, an Ostrogothic army, led by 
the Count Ibba, Theoderic's principal general, entered 
Southern Gaul. Before very long Ibba had gained 
a decisive victory over the Franks and Burgunds, and 
in the following year Clovis was glad to make a treaty 
of peace, in which he acknowledged the infant Am- 
alaric (the son of Alaric) as sovereign, not only of 
Spain, but of a considerable tract of country in the 
south-east of Gaul, including the great cities of Aries 
and Narbonne. The greater part of Provence, east 
of the Rhone, was added by Theoderic to his own 

Theoderic now assumed the government of the 
Visigothic kingdom, as the guardian of his infant 
grandson. An illegitimate half-brother of Amalaric 
endeavoured to make himself king, but after a struggle 
of about a year he was defeated and put to death. 
Theoderic committed the management of the Spanish 
dominions to one of his generals, named Theudis, who 
however collected a native army, and became so power- 
ful that his master was reluctantly obliged to allow him 
practically to assume the position of a tributary king. 
Still, this extension of his empire carried with it 
an increase of respect amongst foreign sovereigns, and 
his nominal lordship over Spain was maintained 
without cost. 


In the year 523 Theoderic made another addition 
to the territory of his kingdom. It was a military 
conquest, and yet it was won without striking a blow. 
This apparently contradictory statement is easily ex- 
plained. Sigismund, king of the Burgunds, prompted 
by the malice of his second wife, had murdered his 
own son, the grandson of Theoderic. Thulwin, the 
general of Theoderic, marched to Lyons with an 
Ostrogothic army, to inflict punishment on the guilty 
king. When he arrived, however, Sigismund had 
already been captured by the sons of Clovis and put 
to death ; and the new king, Godemar, who was carry- 
ing on the war with the Franks, eagerly offered to 
resign to Theoderic the southern half of his kingdom 
as the price of peace. Thulwin therefore returned in 
triumph, having secured all the substantial fruits of a 
victory without the cost of a single life. 

The vessel which conveyed Thulwin home was 
wrecked by a fearful storm in full view of the port 
where Theoderic was waiting to welcome his friend. 
Thulwin, taking his only child in his arms, sprang 
into a boat, and rowed for the shore. The specta- 
tors of his struggles thought it almost impossible 
that the boat could live, and the old king's anguish 
was so great that he could with difficulty be restrained 
from plunging into the sea in a hopeless attempt at 
rescue. The crew of the ship all perished in their 
efforts to reach the land. But Thul win's strength 
and skill enabled him to gain the shore in safety, and 
Theoderic ran to embrace him, shedding tears of joy 
for his escape. It was perhaps the last happy 
moment that the old king enjoyed in his life. 



Happy would it have been for Theoderic if he had 
died in the beginning of the year 523, instead of living 
three years longer. Till that time he had succeeded 
in all his undertakings ; he possessed the respect and 
affection of the great mass of his subjects ; and he 
had never committed any great mistake, or shown 
himself unfaithful to the noble ideal of justice and 
mercy which he had set himself to realize. In the 
last three years of his life all this was changed. He 
discovered, or was made to believe, that those in whom 
he had most implicitly trusted were conspiring for his 
ruin. His mind, worn by age and by the cares of his 
laborious reign, became a prey to universal suspicion, 
which impelled him to rash and violent deeds strangely 
at variance with the whole spirit of his reign. The 
benefactor of Italy died full of remorse and shame 
for the acts of folly and wrong which had gone so 
far to undo the work of thirty toilsome years. 

The beginning of trouble was early in the year 523, 
when Cyprian, one of the king's chief ministers, 
informed Theoderic, then at Verona, that Albinus, a 
wealthy Roman noble and a senator, was guilty of 
enteitaining a treasonable correspondence with the 


emperor at Constantinople. A court, composed of 
the ministers and the principal senators was assembled 
in the royal palace to hear the case. Albinus was con- 
fronted with his accuser, and denied the charge. 
Amongst those who were present was Boethius, of 
whose wealth and influence, as well as his fame as a 
philosopher and a man of science, we have already 
spoken. On hearing the accusations against Albinus, 
Boethius lifted up his voice with the words : " My lord 
the king, the charge is false. If Albinus be guilty, 
so am I, and so is every other member of the senate!" 

But instead of protecting Albinus, as Boethius 
expected it would, this emphatic declaration only drew 
down suspicion upon himself Witness after witness, 
all of them members of the senate, came forward, and 
brought what seemed to be clear proof that not only 
Albinus, but Boethius also, had been plotting against 
his sovereign. The accused were captured at Pavia, 
and thrown into prison. The written testimony of 
the witnesses was sent to Rome, and laid before the 
senate, who unanimously condemned Boethius to 
death, without allowing him to answer for himself or 
to cross-question his accusers. What became of 
Albinus history does not say.. 

Boethius was not put to death at once, but was kept 
nearly a year in prison. After his condemnation he 
wrote that famous book " The Consolation of Philo- 
sophy," which is the only one of all his works that still 
finds readers. It is not exactly a literary masterpiece, 
but as a book written from the heart, as the record of 
the meditations by which a brave and high-minded 
man consoled himself when, fallen suddenly from the 


height of wealth and power to the lowest abyss of 
misery, he was looking forward to an ignominious 
death, it has a deep interest, and will always be 
counted among the world's classics. It has been 
translated into every language in Europe ; and 
amongst the English translators have been King 
Alfred, Chaucer, and, we are told, Queen Elizabeth. 

Whether Boethius was really guilty of treason will 
never be known for certain. He says himself that the 
evidence on which he was condemned consisted partly 
of forged letters ; but his words imply that his own 
conduct had given some ground for suspicion. It 
seems most likely that he had been drawn into some 
correspondence with Constantinople inconsistent with 
his duty to his king, but that his enemies had resorted 
to falsehood and forgery to strengthen their case 
against him. One of the charges, it seems, was that 
he had tried to compass the king's death by witchcraft ; 
in those days a very likely accusation to be brought 
against the most learned man of science of the age. 

It is worth notice that Boethius himself, though 
smarting under the injustice of his sentence, does not 
omit to bear testimony to the love of righteousness 
shown by the king in earlier days, and to record the 
indignation which he always showed at any act of 
oppression on the part of his Gothic ministers. 

After the death of Boethius, his father-in-law, the 
aged Symmachus, was sent for to Ravenna, and 
executed, apparently without a trial, and for no other 
reason than that it was feared that he would conspire 
to avenge his relative. The wild panic which possessed 
Theoderic's mind is shown by his issuing an edict 


forbidding all Romans, under heavy penalties, to carry 
or possess arms. 

Even the policy of religious liberty, which Theoderic 
had regarded as one of the proudest glories of his 
reign, was now to be abandoned. This change was 
provoked by the conduct of the court of Constantinople, 
which in the year 5 24 decreed that the Arian churches 
throughout the empire should be taken from their 
rightful owners and consecrated afresh for Catholic 
use. The news filled Theoderic with the fiercest 
indignation. He sent for the Pope, John the First, 
and compelled him at once to set out for Constanti- 
nople as his ambassador, to demand from the emperor 
the restoration of his Arian subjects to their former 

Pope John was received by the emperor with the 
profoundest demonstrations of respect. It is even said 
that Justin submitted to the ceremony of a second 
coronation, by way of testifying his reverence for the 
head of the Christian Church. The pope was well 
assured that if he returned to Italy without having 
accomplished his errand his life would be forfeited ; 
and so, against his will, he achieved the distinction of 
being the only Roman pontiff who ever pleaded with 
a- Catholic monarch for the toleration of heretics. He 
represented to the emperor the danger which would 
be incurred by himself and the church of Italy if the 
request were refused. Justin was constrained to yield. 
The edict was repealed ; the Arian churches were 
given back to their original possessors. Theoderic's 
demands vvere fully complied with, except in one 
point ; the Arians whom fear or interest had induced 


to join the Catholic Church were not to be allowed to 
apostatise back again. 

The pope returned to Italy to announce the success 
of his embassy. But Theoderic had been informed — 
whether truly or falsely we cannot tell — that his 
strangely chosen messenger had taken advantage of 
his visit to Constantinople to betray to the emperor 
the weakness of the kingdom, and to urge him to 
attempt an invasion. The pope was thrown into 
prison, where he died in May, 526 ; and the king, 
feeling now that the whole Catholic Church had 
become his enemy, promulgated a decree that the 
orthodox worship should be suppressed, and that the k\ 
churches should on a given day be transferred to 
Arian hands. But before the edict could be carried 
into effect Theoderic was dead. 

It was in August, 526, he was seized with his fatal 
illness. A story, which may or may not be true, 
ascribes this sickness to the terrors of a guilty 
conscience. It is said that when seated at supper 
he fancied that he discovered in the head of a large 
fish that had been placed on the table a likeness to 
Symmachus, and rushed from the room exclaiming 
that the face of the murdered senator was looking at 
him with eyes full of hatred and revenge. He then 
took to his bed, complaining of deadly cold which 
nothing could remove. His frenzied delusion passed 
away, but the self-reproach that had caused it con- 
tinued, and he expressed to his physician, his bitter 
repentance for the murders of Symmachus and 

When Theoderic knew that his end was near, he 


sent for his Gothic generals and the Roman ministers 
of state, that they might bid him farewell and receive 
his last commands. He appointed his grandson 
Athalaric, a boy of ten years old, as the heir of the 
kingdom, and the child's mother Amalaswintha, as 
regent during his minority. The chiefs of the army 
and the state took, in Theoderic's presence, a solemn 
oath of fidelity to Amalaswintha and Athalaric ; and 
then the dying king talked with them long and 
earnestly of the policy that was to be followed in the 
government of Italy when he should be no more. He 
urged them to endeavour to maintain friendship with 
the emperor, to forget their jealousies of race and 
creed, and to labour unitedly for the common welfare 
of the people. Above all, he charged them to be 
faithful to those great principles of equal justice to all, 
of strict obedience to law, which at heart he had 
always loved, even though, amid the infirmities of age 
and blinded by panic terror, he had for a moment let 
them slip. He further directed that the government 
of the Visigoth kingdom should be placed unreservedly 
in the hands of Amalaric, w^ho was now grown up to 
manhood, and no longer needed a guardian. 

On the thirtieth of August Theoderic died. His 
remains, enclosed in a coffin of porphyry, were placed 
in a vast circular tomb of white marble at Ravenna, 
which afterwards became the church of Santa Maria 
della Rotonda, and still remains entire, though no 
longer used for worship. A century or two after 
Theoderic's death, when the Goths had been driven 
out of Italy and the Catholics were once more 
supreme, the tomb was robbed of its contents. The 

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porphyry coffin was found at the door of a neighbour- 
ing monastery. What became of the body was 
unknown, but a discovery made some thirty years 
ago may, it has been supposed, possibly throw some 
Hght upon the question. In the year 1854 some 
labourers who were excavating a dock, one or two 
hundred yards from the tomb of Theoderic, came 
upon a skeleton in golden armour, with large jewels 
in the helmet and the hilt of the sword. The place 
was an ancient cemetery, but the body had evidently 
not been regularly buried; it had just been thrust into 
the earth in as hurried a manner as possible. The 
workmen had intended to keep their lucky find to 
themselves, but the secret leaked out, and came to the 
knowledge of the authorities. The men were arrested, 
and made a full confession ; but of the golden armour 
there was nothing left but a few pieces of the cuirass ; 
all the rest had been melted up and sold. 

Now, who was the warrior or prince whose body 
had the strange fate of being buried in golden and 
jewelled armour, and yet not in a -stately sepulchre, 
but in a shallow trench dug in a common graveyard ? 
Some have thought that it was Odovacar ; but it 
seems more likely that it was Odovacar's conqueror. 
If the skeleton found in 1854 was, indeed, that of 
Theoderic, it is plain that those who plundered the 
tomb of the Arian king were moved only by religious 
hate, and not by selfish greed, or they would have 
stolen the gold and jewels instead of burying them 
with their owner. How fierce was the hatred felt by 
pious churchmen for Theoderic's memory we may 
learn from the dialogues of the famous pope, Gregory 



the Great, who tells how, at the moment of the heretic 
monarch's death, a saintly hermit beheld in a vision 
his soul dragged by the victims of his persecutions, 
and cast into the mouth of the volcano of Lipari. 

Here ends the story of Theoderic the Great. To 
estimate his character aright we must look not at 
those last sad three years, when, with a mind 
weakened by age and stung into fury by the 
treachery of trusted friends, he stained by deeds of 
cruelty and wrong the glory of a great career, but 
at the thirty years which he spent in unselfish labour 
for the welfare of his people. If we so judge him, 
we shall surely assign to him a place among the 
noblest men who ever wore a crown. Perhaps Alfred 
of England — different as the two were in many ways 
— is of all the kings known to history the one with 
whom Theoderic may most fitly be compared ; and 
it would be hard to say which was the greater man. 



A queen's troubles. 

The Ostrogoths must have thought it a strange 
thing that the kingdom over which the great 
Theoderic had so long reigned should now be 
governed by a woman in the name of a child. 
Never before had this nation of warriors humbled 
itself by submitting to female rule, and scarcely ever 
had it acknowledged an infant as its king. In the 
old days of freedom the custom had been, whenever 
their king died and left no heir old enough to lead 
the army to battle or preside in the assembly, for the 
people to choose as his successor the ablest man 
amongst the kindred of the royal house. Although 
there was no man living who could remember those 
good old times, the history of the nation was still 
familiar through tho popular songs ; and there were 
those who talked of going back to the ancient rule, 
and placing the crown on the head of Thulwin, 
Theoderic's most honoured general, and the husband 
of an Amaling princess. 

But Thulwin was faithful to the memory of his 
beloved master, and, instead of falling in with the 
schemes suggested to him, used all his influence to 
persuade the Goths to submit loyally to Athalaric 

192 A queen's troubles, 

and his mother. Cassiodorus wrote him a grateful 
letter in the young king's name, conferring on him 
the rank of Patrician, and loading him with praises 
for his generous conduct. He compared Thulwin to 
a famous hero of the past named Gesimund, whom, 
being the adopted son of a king, the people wished 
to raise to the throne, to the neglect of the infant 
heir, but who refused the choice, and served the 
Amaling line with a faithfulness that "was the 
theme of song throughout the world, and would be 
remembered as long as the Gothic name should 

There was no other man in the kingdom whose 
claims were powerful enough to weigh against the 
reverence that was felt for Theoderic's memory ; and 
although the Goths might privately sneer or lament 
over the altered condition of affairs, they joined their 
fellow-subjects in taking the oath of allegiance to 
Athalaric and his mother. Perhaps some of them 
may have been reconciled to the new government by 
the thought that under the weak rule of a woman 
they would have more opportunity to oppress their 
Roman fellow-subjects than had been allowed them 
in the past. 

If this was their hope, it was doomed to be dis- 
appointed. Amalaswintha herself was far more a 
Roman than a Goth. She had not, indeed, forgotten 
her native language ; but she spoke Greek and Latin 
equally well; and took delight in literature and 
science. Her chosen friends were all Romans. Cas- 
siodorus, who seems to have retired for a while into 
private life while Theoderic was playing the part 



ili iliillilllillM 'il 

194 ^ queen's troubles, 

of an oppressor, again assumed the office of chief 
minister of state, and his letters still remain to show 
us what sort of policy was followed. All acts of 
outrage on the part of Goths were rigorously inquired 
into and severely punished ; the laws with regard to 
worship were altered in favour of the Catholics ; the 
confiscated estates of Boethius and Symmachus were 
restored to their children ; Roman officials were pro- 
moted and rewarded ; and special exemptions from 
taxation were freely granted to the provincials. It 
is said that during the whole of her reign Amalas- 
wintha never punished a single Roman either with 
death or loss of property. 

But if these measures secured for the queen the 
goodwill of the Romans, they excited bitter resent- 
ment in the minds of her own people. The Goths in 
Theoderic's reign had sometimes complained that the 
Romans got too much favour ; but they knew in 
their hearts that their king aimed at nothing but 
equal justice. But now they could make the same 
complaint with only too good reason. 

What they thought worst of all was the way in 
which Amalaswintha was bringing up her son. 
Instead of having him taught to ride and fence, 
and letting him join in the sports of the young 
nobles; she kept him closely to his books, and out 
of school hours made him spend his time in the 
company of three aged Goths, " the most intelligent 
and well-mannered" — which means, of course, the 
most like Romans — that she was able to find. The 
Gothic warriors said that Athalaric was being edu- 
cated to be a sickly, useless bookworm, unfit to bear 



the fatigues or face the dangers of war, and despising 
his own people as ignorant barbarians. 

One day it happened that Athalaric had done 
something wrong, and his mother had beaten him. 
The boy went crying into the men's room, and the 
Goths who were in attendance soon got to know 
what was the matter. " What a shame ! " one of 
them said, when Athalaric had told his story ; " it is 
plain that what she wants is to kill the child as soon 
as she can, so that she can marry a second husband, 
and share the kingdom with him." Many angry 
speeches were made, and it was agreed that a depu- 
tation should be sent to expostulate with the queen 
on her conduct. 

Accordingly a number of the chief Gothic nobles 
demanded an audience of Amalaswintha. When 
they were admitted into her presence their spokes- 
man said : " We have come, O queen, to tell you 
that we consider that the way in which you are 
training up our young king is altogether wrong. 
A Gothic king does not want book-learning ; he 
needs to know how to fight, and, as your father often 
used to say, unless the art of war was learned in 
youth it never would be learned at all. He never 
allowed Gothic boys to be sent to school ; it was his 
maxim that a boy who had trembled at the school- 
master's rod would never face an enemy's sword. 
Look at his own example. There never was a wiser 
or a more powerful king than Theoderic, and yet he 
knew nothing of book-learning, not even by hearsay. 
Therefore, O queen, we demand that you send these 
schoolmasters about their business, and let your son 



be brought up as befits a king of the Goths, among 
companions of his own age." 

No doubt it was true that Amalaswintha's way of 
educating her son was not altogether the right one. 
If Theoderic had had the training of an heir to his 
kingdom he would have taken care that the boy 
should be taught to excel in all manly exercises, and 
to display the courage and endurance which his 
people above all things demanded in their king. But, 
at the same time, he knew the worth of Roman 
learning, and though he may have thought it best 
that the sons of his Gothic warriors should have little 
to do with books, he would not have allowed the 
future king of Goths and Romans to grow up in 
barbarian ignorance. 

Amalaswintha was bitterly indignant at the im- 
perious demands of the Gothic chiefs, but she knew 
it was of no use to resist. She sullenly told them 
that they should have their own way ; she gave up 
the young king to their management, and promised 
to interfere no further with his education. 

The result was what might have been expected. 
The poor boy, suddenly set free from his mother's 
strict control, and with no one else to exercise whole- 
some restraint over him, fell under the influence of 
vicious companions, and spent all his time in drunken- 
ness and dissipation. It was soon evident to every 
one that his health was ruined by his excesses, and 
that he would not live to the age of manhood. 

But Amalaswintha's concessions availed her no- 
thing. The continued insolence of the Gothic nobles 
made her life a burden. Her commands were seldom 


obeyed, and the kingdom soon fell into utter 

At length she determined to abandon Italy, and 
wrote to the emperor Justinian, asking if he would 
give her a home in Constantinople. The emperor, 
who was eagerly looking out for an opportunity to 
make Italy his own, readily consented, and had a 
palace splendidly furnished for her at Dyrrhachinm 
(Durazzo) on the Greek side of the Adriatic, when it 
was agreed that she should live until arrangements 
could be made for her to take up her abode in Con- 

Amalaswintha sent over to Dyrrhachium a ship 
containing 40,000 pounds weight of gold, and made 
all preparations for leaving the country. But before 
she took this decisive step, she determined to make 
one desperate effort to regain her lost power. 

The opposition to Amalaswintha's government was 
led by three Gothic nobles who were so powerful that 
she felt that if they could only be got rid of she 
could rule the kingdom as she chose. She managed 
to send these three men to different parts of the 
country, under the pretence of employing them for 
the defence of the frontiers, and took means to have 
them assassinated. In case the plot should fail, she 
had a ship in readiness to take her over the Adriatic 
at a moment's notice. 

But the news came that her three dreaded enemies 
were dead, and Amalaswintha abandoned her purpose 
of flight. It is supposed that, one of the victims of 
this shameful murder was no other than Thulwin, the 
dear friend of Amalaswintha's father, the loyal servant 

198 A queen's troubles. 

who had preferred his duty to his master's house to 
the temptation of placing the crown on his own head. 

For a while it seemed as if Amalaswintha had 
gained her object. The opposition party among the 
Goths were thoroughly frightened, and she reigned 
over Italy as an absolute sovereign. But her triumph 
did not last long. 

Justinian was resolved by one means or other to 
make himself master of Italy. When he learned 
that Amalaswintha had abandoned her intention of 
going to live at Constantinople, he had to devise another 
plan, and found in one of the queen's own relatives 
a tool by which he hoped to accomplish his end. 

This was Theodahad, the son of Theoderic's sister 
Amalafrida by her first husband. He was a man 
somewhat advanced in years, greatly celebrated for 
his learning, being well acquainted with Latin litera- 
ture, and as well with the writings of Plato and the 
Holy Scriptures. Unfortunately he was still more 
celebrated for his cowardice and his avarice. Nearly 
all the land in the province of Tuscany belonged to 
him, but he was always scheming to lay hold of some 
" Naboth's vineyard " that lay near to his own pro- 
perty. More than once Theoderic had compelled 
him to give back his ill-gotten gains, and just at this 
very time Amalaswintha's judges were examining into 
fresh charges of extortion brought against him by the 
people of his province. Theodahad knew very well 
that the case wouki go against him, and he hated the 
queen with the bitterest hatred. 

With the intention of having his revenge, and 
adding to his own wealth at the same time, Theodahad 


contrived to let Justinian know that he was ready — 
for a sufficient bribe — to deHver up Tuscany into the 
emperor's hands. Just then Justinian was sending 
over an embassy, partly to Amalaswintha and partly 
to the pope, and he instructed his ambassadors to see 
Theodahad secretly, and try to bargain with him for 
the proposed treason. The price which the traitor 
asked was the permission to live in Constantinople, 
the rank of senator, and — most important of all — a 
large sum of money paid down. 

Meanwhile, however, the ambassadors had been 
negotiating with the queen. They laid before her a 
long list of wrongs which the empire had suffered 
from the Goths, and claimed that reparation should 
be made. One of the principal demands was that the 
Goths should surrender to the emperor the town of 
Lilyba^um in Sicily. This was a place which King 
Theoderic had given as a present to his sister Amala- 
frida when she married the Vandal king. Now that 
Justinian, through his general Belisarius, had subdued 
the Vandals (with the very good will of the Ostrogoths, 
who had their own wrongs to avenge), he claimed that 
Lilybaeum belonged to him as the conqueror ; but 
the Goths had taken possession of the place and 
would not give it up. 

Amalaswintha laid these demands before her minis- 
ters, and by their advice wrote a very dignified letter 
to Justinian, respectfully acknowledging that Athalaric 
was the. emperor's vassal, but refusing to yield to his 
unjust claims, and suggesting that it would be more 
worthy of a great sovereign to show kindness to " an 
orphan boy " than to try to pick a quarrel with him 


A queen's troubles. 

over trifles. After having publicly returned to the 
ambassador this queenly answer, the crafty woman 
sent for him privately, and made a solemn promise, 
which was to be kept strictly secret, that she would 
hand over the kingdom to Justinian as soon as the 
needful arrangements could be made. 

The ambassadors returned to Constantinople. Jus- 
tinian was delighted with their report; he had secured 
" two strings to his bow," and felt no doubt that Italy 
would soon be his. He determined to lose no time 
in following up his advantage and despatched a 
certain Peter of Thessalonica, a famous professor of 


eloquence at Constantinople, to Italy for the purpose 
of making both the queen and her cousin bind them- 
selves by oath to fulfil their respective parts in the 
compact. It is said that the Empress Theodora, 
whose jealousy had been excited by the accounts of 
Amalaswintha's beauty and accomplishments, gave 
Peter private instructions of her own to manage 
matters so that the Gothic queen should never come 
to Constantinople. 

Before Peter had arrived at Ravenna, towards the 
end of 534, important events had taken place. On 


October 3rd, Athalaric died of consumption. His 
mother continued to rule the kingdom in her own 
name, but she felt that her position was full of peril. 
The Goths had submitted unwillingly enough to a 
female regent ; there was little hope that they would 
tolerate anything so unheard of as a female sovereign. 
Much as the cowardly Theodahad was hated and 
despised, he was the next heir to the crown, and with 
their new-fashioned ideas about hereditary succession 
it was likely that the Goths would choose him as 
their king. Amalaswintha was resolved not to be 
set aside : if she meant to resign her kingdom in 
favour of Justinian it must be " for valuable con- 
sideration," and to be dethroned by the Goths would 
be ruin to all her prospects. 

In her desperate extremity she hit upon a strange 
plan, which no doubt she thought wonderfully cun- 
ning, though it turned out to be the height of folly. 
She invited Theodahad to Ravenna, and exhausted 
all her eloquence in protestations of the utmost friend- 
ship and respect for the man whom above all others 
she detested, and whom she knew to be her bitterest 
enemy. She assured her dear cousin that it had caused 
her great pain to have to treat him with apparent 
unkindness, but it had all been done for his own good. 
Knowing that her poor boy had not many years to 
live, she had been anxious that Theodahad should be 
his successor, but she had seen that his course of con- 
duct was prejudicing his future subjects against him, 
afid endangering his prospect of being acknowledged 
as king. She had, therefore, felt it her duty to inter- 
pose, and she congratulated him that by his obedience 


to her commands he had saved his imperilled popu- 
larity, so that she could now venture to associate him 
with herself in the kingdom. Not that she proposed 
to make him her equal in power : she would avail 
herself of his valuable advice, he should have the title 
of king, and share equally in the outward honours 
and the revenues of royalty, but he must take an oath 
to leave the actual government of the kingdom en- 
tirely in her hands. 

Of course Theodahad could not for a moment be 
deceived by Amalaswintha's absurdly transparent 
pretences of friendship, but it is hardly necessary to 
say that he professed to be deeply touched by the 
discovery that his dear sister, whom he had always 
profoundly esteemed, even when he imagined her to 
be his enemy, had after all only been dissembling 
her love, and with the best possible motives. He 
gratefully accepted her offer of the kingly title, and 
bound himself by the strongest oaths never to attempt 
to make himself king otherwise than in name. But 
so far from intending to keep his oath, he was all the 
while thinking how he could make himself indepen- 
dent of Amalaswintha, and inwardly vowing that he 
would some day be revenged upon her for all the hu- 
miliations she had made him suffer. In the game of 
mutual imposture which these two were playing, the 
daughter of Theoderic was no match for her antago- 
nist. She fully believed that Theodahad had been 
deceived by her clever acting, and had been converted 
from an enemy into a humble and grateful friend. 

So Amalaswintha and Theodahad were solemnly 
proclaimed king and queen of Italy, and each of them 

204 A queen's trouble^. 

sent to Justinian a letter (drawn up by Cassiodorus, 
and still preserved in the collection of his despatches) 
informing the emperor that Athalaric was dead, that 
Amalaswintha had succeeded him in the kingdom, and 
had associated "her brother " Theodahad with herself. 
The queen was full of praises of her brother's learning 
and virtues, and Theodahad for his part was full of 
gratitude for the kindness of" his sister and sovereign"; 
and both letters abounded in expressions of respect 
for the emperor, and asked his continued protection of 
the kingdom. To the senate also Amalaswintha and 
Theodahad wrote letters in the same strain of mutual 

Only a few weeks later the faithless Theodahad had 
openly allied himself with Amalaswintha's enemies, 
the relatives and partisans of the three murdered 
chiefs. The men who had been employed in the mur- 
der were put to death, and the queen herself was 
imprisoned on an island in the lake of Bolsena, about 
sixty miles north-west of Rome. 

Through his ambassador Peter, who now arrived in 
Italy, the emperor expressed to Theodahad his dis- 
pleasure at what had happened, and his intention to 
act as Amalaswintha's protector. But not long after 
the avengers of the blood of Thulwin and his com- 
panions found admission to the island castle, and the 
imprisoned queen was strangled in her bath. 

Amalaswintha's cruel fate was after all the fruit of 
her own deeds, and we cannot regard her with the 
unqualified pity due to an innocent sufferer. But 
her temptations were assuredly great. Surrounded 
throughout her reign by conspiracy and treason, in- 


volved in perplexities from which there seemed no 
escape, it was rather from weakness than from wicked- 
ness that she allowed herself to resort to those acts of 
violence and treachery of which she afterwards met 
the just reward. 

Theodahad zealously protested to the emperor's 
ambassador that he had nothing to do with the mur- 
der ; but the honours which he bestowed on the men 
who perpetrated the deed showed plainly that he had at 
least connived at it. The real history of the crime will 
never be fully known. It is said on good authority 
that Peter, who was professedly the agent of the em- 
peror, but secretly also the agent of the wicked empress 
Theodora, managed to persuade his mistress that 
Amalaswintha's death had been brought about by his 
own contrivance, and was rewarded by her with high 
office in consequence. The correspondence between 
the empress and Theodahad's wife Gudelina contains 
some mysterious allusions, which have been supposed 
to show that these two women had conspired together 
to have Amalaswintha murdered. It is possible 
enough : in that evil time there were few among the 
great ones of the earth who were free from hideous 
suspicions, which were often certainties, of being con- 
cerned in plots for the assassination of their enemies. 

Although Justinian had himself no hand in procur- 
ing the queen's death, yet no event could have been 
more fortunate for his schemes. It gave him, what he 
had long desired, a good excuse for a war of conquest 
against the Goths. To profess himself the avenger of 
the murdered daughter of Theoderic was to assume a 
character which commanded sympathy not only from 



all the Romans of Italy, but even from many of the 
Goths themselves, who were still loyal to the memory 
of their great hero, and were filled with loathing for 
the treachery and cowardice of Theodahad. The 
weakness of Italy, divided into hostile parties, with 
its military system fallen into decay through years of 
feeble government, invited attack; and the emperor 
was conscious of the strength which he possessed, not 
so much in the numbers of his army as in the talents 
and energy of his general Belisarius, " in himself a 

And so in the year 535, Justinian declared a war 
which he vowed should continue until the Gothic power 
in Italy was annihilated. He kept his promise ; but 
the struggle was harder and longer than he dreamed. 
It was not until twenty years had passed that the 
sword was sheathed, and Italy became a part of the 
dominions of the Eastern empire. 



Justinian's design of conquering Italy was a bold 
one, for the military power of the empire had sunk so 
low that the number of men that could be placed in 
the field scarcely amounted to more than ten thousand. 
It is true that they were commanded by Belisarius, 
whose skill had just been shown in the brilliant cam- 
paign that crushed the Vandals, and who (so many 
modern writers have judged) was one of the greatest 
generals of all time. But it was only the distracted 
state of Italy, and the helpless weakness of the Gothic 
king, that gave to the project of conquest any chance 
of success. It was necessary to act at once, lest the 
opportunity should be lost ; and yet caution was 
equally needed, for the consequences of failure were 

The sagacity of Justinian was equal to the emer- 
gency. First of all, he wrote to the king of the Franks 
announcing that having been deeply wronged by the 
Goths, he was about to march against them to recon- 
quer the portion of his dominions which they had 
usurped, and calling upon his fellow Catholics to lend 
him their support in a religious war for the expulsion 
of the Arian heretics. Having obtained a promise of 


aid from the Franks, he proceeded to make his first 
attack in a way that involved Httle risk, and yet would 
be likely to terrify Theodahad into surrender. 

It was determined that Belisarius, with seven thou- 
sand five hundred men, should take shipping under 
pretence of going to Carthage, and should land, as if 
in passing, in Sicily. If he saw reason to believe that 
the island could be occupied without trouble he was 
to do so ; if not, he was to sail away to Africa without 
letting it be known what his designs had been. At the 
same time the Gepid Mundus was sent to make an 
attack on the undefended possessions of the Goths on 
the east side of the Adriatic. 

Both parts of the scheme succeeded perfectly. 
Mundus entered Dalmatia, and obtained possession 
of the chief city, Salona, without resistance. Belisa- 
rius found that the people of Sicily were eager to be 
freed from Gothic rule. He soon captured Catana ; 
Syracuse opened its gates to him ; and the only city 
that gave him any trouble was Palermo, which was 
strongly fortified, and was held by an important 
Gothic garrison. Belisarius called on the Goths to 
surrender, but, trusting to the strength of their walls, 
they paid no attention to his demand. The stratagem 
by which he is said to have gained possession of the 
city was a strange one. Anchoring his ships in the 
harbour, close to the city wall, he had boat-loads of 
archers hoisted up to the tops of the masts. When 
the besieged found that they were assailed with 
volleys of arrows out of the air, they were terribly 
frightened, and at once surrendered. Whether this 
curious story be true or not, there is no doubt that in 


a few weeks Belisarius received the submission of the 
whole island almost without the loss of a man. The 
Goths never forgave the Sicilians for their ingratitude 
in so joyfully welcoming the change of masters. It 
was not long before the visits of the imperial tax- 
gatherers made the islanders feel that the position of 
subjects of the empire had its palpable disadvantages. 
Notwithstanding the outbreak of hostilities, the 
ambassador Peter still continued in communication 
with Theodahad, and made it his business to stimu- 
late, by cunningly dropped hints, the anxiety which 
the events of Dalmatia and Sicily had excited in the 
king's mind. In this endeavour he was perfectly 
successful. The poor wretch was soon brought into 
such an agony of terror that he could hardly believe 
he was not already a prisoner of war, or — what was 
still worse — at the head of his army, and forced to 
expose himself to mortal danger. Peter had there- 
fore very little difficulty in inducing Theodahad to 
agree to all his demands ; and a secret agreement 
was drawn up, which Peter undertook to submit for 
the approval of the emperor. The conditions stipu- 
lated were : " That the emperor should retain posses- 
sion of Sicily ; that Theodahad should pay a tribute 
of 3 cwt. of gold every year, and supply three thou- 
sand Gothic soldiers whenever required ; that no 
senator or Catholic priest should be punished with 
death or confiscation without the emperor's leave ; 
that the emperor should have the appointment of 
patricians and senators ; that no one should be 
allowed to shout, 'Long live Theodahad,' but only 
* Long live Justinian and Theodahad ; ' and that no 


statue of Theodahad should be erected unless accom- 
panied by one of Justinian, which was always to 
occupy the place of honour at the right hand." 

Having obtained Theodahad's consent to this 
agreement, Peter set out for Constantinople, no doubt 
thinking that he had made an excellent bargain. As 
soon as he was out of sight, however, it occurred to 
Theodahad that possibly the emperor would not 
approve of the conditions, and that in that case the 
war would have to go on after all. Tormented by 
this terrible thought, he hastily despatched a messen- 
ger to overtake the ambassador, and entreat him to 
come back at once. Peter obeyed the summons with 
a good deal of vexation, for his natural conclusion 
was that the king, showing for the moment something 
more like a manly spirit, had repented of his bargain, 
and that the whole process of coaxing and intimida- 
tion would have to be gone through again. 

As soon as Peter appeared in the royal presence, 
Theodahad eagerly asked whether it was quite certain 
that the emperor would accept the offered terms, and 
if not, what would be the result. The answer con- 
firmed his worst fears. " I cannot fight," he said ; " if 
it really came to that, I would rather resign my 
crown, provided the emperor would give me an estate 
worth twelve hundred pounds weight of gold a year." 
Peter then persuaded him to put this proposal into 
the form of a letter addressed to Justinian, but it was 
agreed that the ambassador should not deliver the 
letter, or drop any hint about any further offers, until 
he had tried his best to induce Justinian to accept the 
treaty as at first drawn up. Himself the most faith- 


less of men, Theodahad had yet the folly to think 
that the ambassador would keep this absurd promise, 
at the sacrifice of his duty to his master, and at the 
risk of his own head. Of course when he got to 
Constantinople Peter told the whole story. Justinianj 
accepted Theodahad's surrender of the kingdom, and! 
wrote him a letter complimenting him on his wise' 
decision, and promising him not merely the estate he 
asked for, but the highest honours which could be 
bestowed on a subject of the empire. 

The trusty Peter, accompanied by a certain Atha- 
nasius, was sent over to Italy to receive Theodahad's 
formal abdication, and to assign to him the lands for 
which he had bargained ; Belisarius was ordered to 
go from Sicily to Rome to take possession of the 
Italian kingdom. 

But when Peter arrived in Italy he found that 
Theodahad's mood of abject humility had given place 
to one of insolent defiance. The cause of this change 
was some news which had come from Dalmatia. A 
strong body of Goths had made an attack on the 
imperial general Mundus at Salona ; a battle had 
taken place without any decisive result, but Mundus 
and his son were killed. This event was to many 
superstitious people rather a cause for satisfaction 
than for regret. A pretended prophecy of the Sibyl 
had been for some time much quoted, which said that 
when Africa was subdued the world and its offspring 
would perish. After the conquest of the Vandal 
kingdom by Belisarius, many persons feared that the 
end of the world was at hand. But as mundus is the 
Latin for " world," it was generally thought the death 



of the Gepid general and his son had fulfilled the 
prophecy, and that the threatened calamity was no 
longer to be apprehended. 

The emperor's armies very soon compelled the 
Gothic generals to retire from Dalmatia in confusion. 
But in the meantime the news of a Gothic victory had 
turned Theodahad's weak head, and Peter and Atha- 
nasius were received with mockery and insult, and 
were even threatened with death. They tried then to 
negotiate with the Gothic nobles, to whom they had 
brought separate letters from Justinian ; but the chiefs 
refused to listen to any proposals which did not come 
through their king. The upshot of the matter was 
that the ambassadors were thrown into prison, and 
Justinian saw that Italy would have to be conquered 
by force of arms. 

It was about April, 536, when Belisarius crossed the 
Straits of Messina to begin the work of subduing the 
Gothic kingdom. As soon as he landed at Reggio he 
was met by Ebermund, Theodahad's son-in-law, who 
had been entrusted with the defences of the southern 
coast, but who at once deserted to the enemy with all 
his followers. Belisarius reported the fact to Con- 
stantinople, and the traitor was rewarded by Justinian 
with the title of Patrician and many other marks of 

The imperial troops met with no resistance until 
they came under the walls of Naples. The Gothic 
soldiers occupying the outworks of the city were soon 
dislodged, and Belisarius summoned the town itself 
to surrender. Although a party among the citizens 
desired to shake off the Gothic yoke, the governing 


officers and the great mass of the people were 
determined to resist. Belisarius offered the most 
honourable and easy terms, but after long negotia- 
tions he was compelled to commence the siege. 

The inhabitants succeeded in communicating with 
Theodahad, whom they implored to send them an 
army of relief without delay. The story goes that 
when the king received this message he consulted a 
Jewish sorcerer, asking him what the result of the 
struggle would be. The Jew directed him to take 
thirty hogs, and to place them in three different styes, 
ten of them to represent the Romans, ten the Goths, 
and ten the imperial troops. He was to keep them 
without food for a given time, and then to go and see 
what had happened to them. The result was that 
the hogs which stood for the emperor's soldiers were 
all found alive and little the worse, but half the 
"Romans" and nearly all the "Goths" had died, the 
few which survived being in a very wretched condi- 
tion. Theodahad, if we are to believe the tale, 
accepted the omen as meaning that the Gothic cause 
was fated to defeat, and pleaded that as his excuse for 
sending no help to the faithful and unfortunate garri- 
son of Naples. 

The city, however, was strongly fortified and well 
provisioned, and, although the besiegers had stopped 
up the aqueduct, the inhabitants were able to obtain 
a sufficient supply of water from springs within the 
walls. After twenty days, Belisarius had made so little 
progress that he was on the point of determining to 
raise the siege and push forward towards Rome. Just 
at that moment, however, a welcome discovery was 


made. One of the soldiers, an Asiatic barbarian 
named Paucaris, who was prowHng idly about, took 
a fancy to see how far he could walk along the aque- 
duct, entering at the point where Belisarius had 
broken it open. He managed to go on without 
difficulty until he was just under the city wall, but 
there he found that the watercourse passed through 
a hole in the rock, too narrow for a man to get 
through. He thought, however, that the hole could 
easily be widened, and that the tunnel would then 
afford a means of penetrating into the city. 

Paucaris, of course, communicated his discovery to 
Belisarius, who received it with great delight, and 
promised the man a handsome reward if his clever 
plan should result in the capture of the city. A 
number of men were sent up the aqueduct, furnished 
with tools suited for scraping away the rock without 
noise, and before long they had made the opening 
large enough for a man to pass through in full 

All was now ready for the execution of the scheme, 
but Belisarius wished to give the city one more chance 
of escaping by a timely surrender or, the miseries of 
a capture by force of arms. He sent for one of the 
principal inhabitants, named Stephen, who had before 
acted as the spokesman of the besieged, and urged 
upon him to persuade his townsmen to accept the 
favourable conditions offered. "My plans are now 
complete," he said, "and in a few days at most 
Naples must be mine. But I shudder to think what 
will be its fate if it has to be taken by storm. My 
soldiers are fierce barbarians ; how can I control them 


when they are inflamed with the pride of victory? 
Often have I seen a fair city wrapped in flames, and 
exposed to the cruel rage of a conquering army, and 
the sight is so horrible that I never wish to behold it 
again. Go back to your fellow-citizens, tell them 
what I have said to you, and entreat them to be wise 
before it is too late." 

Stephen saw from his manner that he was uttering 
no idle threat, and he tried his best to induce his 
fellow-citizens to yield. But they believed that Beli- 
sarius had only renewed his proposals because he was 
hopeless of capturing the fortress, and they refused 
to listen. Belisarius had no choice but to carry his 
plan into effect. 

A body of four hundred men was told off for the 
duty of entering the city by the aqueduct. At first, 
half of them shrank from the perilous enterprise, but 
their places were quickly filled by volunteers, and then 
those who had refused, stung with shame from their 
cowardice, begged to be allowed to take part in the 
expedition. So in the dead of night the whole six 
hundred entered the tunnel, and marched as noise- 
lessly as they could, under the city walls. In order 
to prevent their movements from being heard by the 
defenders of the city, a Gothic officer named Bessa 
was sent by Belisarius to harangue the Goths on the 
walls in their own language, inviting them to desert 
to the emperor. The stratagem was successful : the 
Goths raised such scouts of indignation that no sounds 
proceeding from below could possibly be noticed. 

The six hundred soldiers proceeded along the dried- 
up watercourse until they came to a large under- 


ground chamber, with lofty brick walls and a vaulted 
roof. Near one corner a few bricks had fallen, and 
there was a glimpse of blue sky ; but there seemed 
to be no other means of getting out except this hole 
at the top. The soldiers stood some time considering 
what was to be done. At length one of them, who 
was a good climber, threw off his armour, and tying 
a strong rope round his waist scrambled up the brick 
wall with his fingers and toes, and succeeded in get- 
ting out into the open air. He found himself in a 
cottage garden in a quiet part of the city. An old 
woman, the only occupant of the cottage, came to the 
door. The soldier threatened to kill her if she made 
a sound. He then tied his rope to an olive tree, and 
lowered it into the underground chamber, so that his 
companions were able to climb up with their armour. 
When they had all emerged, they rushed to the 
northern wall, which they soon cleared of its de- 
fenders, and held until their comrades were able to 
scale it wdth ladders. 

The Goths fought desperately, assisted by a large 
number of Jews, who had not forgotten the kindness 
which their race had received from the great Theo- 
deric. But their resistance was unavailing. Before 
the day was over the city was in the hands of the 
imperial forces, and then began those scenes of mas- 
sacre and destruction which Belisarius had foreseen 
and dreaded. The commander himself used all his 
efforts to check the rage of his followers : exhorting 
them to mercy, he rode through the streets of the 
city, threatening and punishing those who were guilty 
of outrages. At length his authority prevailed ; the 


soldiers were compelled to abstain from further insults 
to the citizens, and to restore to their families the 
women and children whom they had seized as slaves. 
The townspeople then broke out into fury against the 
two orators by whose advice they had been led to 
reject the offered terms of surrender. One of them 
fell dead of apoplexy : the other was torn in pieces 
by the mob, and his remains hanged on a gibbet. 
After this act of vengeance, the streets of Naples 
assumed once more their accustomed aspect of order 
and tranquillity. 

Belisarius treated his Gothic prisoners kindly, and 
they enlisted under his standard. Other Gothic forces 
in the neighbouring territories deserted to the Romans, 
and the commander was soon able to establish the 
government of the empire over nearly the whole south 
of Italy. 

While these events were taking place, the Goths in 
the neighbourhood of Rome waited patiently for 
Theodahad to take some measures of defence. Their 
loyalty to the Amaling race had such strange power 
that it was not until Naples had fallen, and the 
sovereignty of Justinian had been proclaimed within 
fifty miles of Rome, that they could bring themselves 
to believe that their king was a traitor. But now, 
when all this had happened, and Theodahad still re- 
mained inactive, they could doubt no longer. 

A great council of the nation was called together 
at a place called Regeta, some forty miles south of 
Rome. The chiefs laid before the people their grounds 
for complaint against the king, and asked what was 
their will. " Down with Theodahad ! " was the unani- 



mous cry. ** Down with the traitor who is buying 
pardon for his own crimes by delivering his people to 
destruction ! " But who was to succeed him ? The 
time called for a warrior king, and notwithstanding 
their respect for royal blood, the Goths with one 
accord chose Witigis, a man of humble origin, but 
the ablest military leader they possessed. 

When Theodahad heard that the Goths had elected 
a new king, he hastened from Rome intending to take 
shelter within the walls of Ravenna. King Witigis 
despatched after him a certain Optahari with orders 
to bring him back alive or dead. This Optahari had 
a quarrel of his own against Theodahad : a wealthy 


and beautiful young lady had been promised to him 
in marriage, and the king, influenced by a bribe, had 
compelled her to marry another man. Optahari set 
out in pursuit of the fugitive, and by riding night and 
day managed to overtake him before he reached 
Ravenna. Screaming with fright, the wretched king 
was thrown on the ground and killed — " like an 
animal offered in sacrifice," says the contemporary 

Such was the end of the most despicable wretch 
that ever disgraced the Gothic name. It has strangely 
happened that while we . have no record of the per- 



sonal appearance of the great Theoderic, the features 
of his worthless nephew have come down to us on 
several of his coins. We cannot doubt that the por- 
trait is a faithful one ; it expresses too well the mix- 
ture of knavery, folly, and cowardice which composed 
Theodahad's character. 



Honest and well-meaning the successor of Theo- 
dahad seems to have been, and his valour as a soldier 
had been proved thirty years before in the war against 
the Gepids. But he had not the talents which were 
needed for the supreme command of an army, espe- 
cially when the adversary was a man like Belisarius. 
The Goths, however, had unbounded faith in the wis- 
dom as well as in the courage of their new king, and 
confidently expected that he would very soon drive 
the imperial troops out of Italy. 

But although, as events showed, Witigis was not a very 
wise or far-seeing man, he had the good sense to per- 
ceive that to march against Belisarius forthwith would 
only be to court destruction. Before he could hope 
to grapple successfully with such a foe, it was neces- 
sary both to restore the discipline of the army, so sadly 
neglected during two feeble reigns, and to make peace 
with the Franks, so that the Gothic soldiers engaged 
in the north might be made available for the struggle 
against the forces of the emperor. Witigis called an 
assembly of the Goths at Rome, and, addressing them 
as " fellow soldiers," he explained to them the reasons 
for delay. The people listened to his speech with 


feelings of disappointment, but they deferred to his 
judgment, and made no protest when he proposed to 
leave Rome garrisoned with four thousand men, and 
to betake himself with the bulk of the army to 

This part of the king's plan was a terrible mistake. 
If the Goths had occupied Rome in force, Belisarius 
would not have dared to attack them with his small 
army : he would have had to wait for reinforcements, 
and Witigis would have gained the delay which he 
required. The foolish flight to Ravenna, instead of 
postponing the conflict, only hastened it, and threw 
an immense advantage into the enemy's hand. Al- 
though Witigis knew how little the fidelity of the 
Roman people was to be trusted, he could not see 
that to leave the city guarded only by four thousand 
men, was simply to ensure its fall. Nor did he realize 
how terrible a calamity, if it did happen, the loss of 
Rome would be ; how it would embolden the whole 
Italian people to declare themselves on the emperor's 
side, and how it would weigh down the hearts of the 
Goths with a sense of the hopelessness of the struggle. 

And so the fatal resolution was taken. Before 
leaving Rome Witigis compelled the Pope Silverius 
and the senators to swear an oath of eternal fidelity 
to himself ; and in order to ensure, as he thought, the 
observance of the oath he took with him a number of 
the senators as hostages. An officer of tried courage 
and skill, named Leudahari, was placed in command 
of the four thousand ; and then the king and his army 
marched away to Ravenna. 

Although Witigis had been chosen king by thQ 


unanimous voice of the people, he could not help re- 
membering that he was not of Amaling blood, and he 
lived in dread of a conspiracy on behalf of the two 
persons of the ancient line who might be regarded as 
entitled to the throne. One of these was Theudagisal, 
the son of Theodahad. The son of a father so greatly 
detested could not perhaps have been a very dangerous 
rival, but Witigis, nevertheless, thought it necessary 
to throw him into prison. It was more reasonably to 
be feared that plots would be formed in favour of 
Amalaswintha's young and beautiful daughter, Mat- 
aswintha ; and, in order to render his claim to the 
throne secure, Witigis, on his arrival at Ravenna, 
divorced his own wife and married the princess. He 
could now claim to be king by hereditary right ; in 
his addresses to the Gothic people he appeals to their 
loyalty to the house of Theoderic, and some of his 
coins bear the queen's monogram. But every one 
knew that Mataswintha had been forced into the 
marriage against her will ; she never concealed her 
dislike of her husband, and in after years she was 
with good reason suspected of being in league with 
his enemies. 

One of the earliest acts of Witigis at Ravenna was 
to call an assembly of the Gothic nobles, for the pur- 
pose of obtaining their consent to a proposed treaty 
of peace with the Franks. The conditions were that 
the Ostrogoths should give up all their possessions in 
Gaul to the Franks, and pay them two thousand 
pounds weight of gold. Witigis himself spoke of this 
treaty as " a painful necessity," but he assured the 
nobles that no better terms could be obtained, and 


after some discussion the proposal was approved. 
The Franks accepted the bribe, and promised Witigis 
their assistance in the war. As they did not wish to 
quarrel with Justinian, they could not themselves 
appear in the field, but they undertook that their 
vassals, the kings of the Alamans and the Burgunds, 
should send troops to fight on the Gothic side. 

While King Witigis at Ravenna was busy drilling 
his soldiers and making his bargain with the Franks, 
he received the startling news that Belisarius was in 
Rome. Pope Silverius and the senators had heard 
of the sad fate that had befallen Naples through its 
resistance to the imperial army, and determined to 
save Rome from similar calamities by a timely sur- 
render. Faithless to the oaths which they had sworn 
to the Goths, they sent an embassy to Belisarius, 
inviting him to come with all speed to Rome, and 
promising that the gates should be opened at his 
approach. Belisarius lost no time in complying with 
the request. Leaving a garrison of three hundred 
men at Naples, he set out with his army along " the 
Latin Way " to Rome. 

When the senators received the tidings that Beli- 
sarius was coming, they informed the commander of 
the Gothic garrison of what they had done. The 
brave Leudahari called his soldiers together, and told 
them that though thus shamefully betrayed, he was 
resolved at all hazards to defend the city. But the 
Goths refused to obey their general, and unaminously 
declared that they would abandon Rome, and join 
the rest of the army at Ravenna. 

It was on the 9th of December, 536, that Belisarius 


entered Rome by the " Asinarian Gate " on the south ; 
and at the same moment the four thousand Goths 
marched out of the " Flaminian Gate " which led to 
the great northern road. Leudahari, however, obstin- 
ately refused to abandon his post. He remained to 
be taken prisoner, and was sent, together with the 
keys of the city, as a token of victory to Justinian. 

Belisarius took up his residence in the palace on the 
Pincian Hill, and at once began to set about the repair 
of the fortifications, and to procure large supplies of 
corn from Sicily. The Romans saw these proceedings 
with dismay, for they showed that the general was 
preparing to be besieged in Rome. The citizens felt 
that their treason against Witigis had done them little 
good, if after all they were to suffer the hardships of 
a siege, and perhaps — who could tell ? — were to fall 
at last into the hands of the infuriated Goths. The 
joy with which Belisarius had at first been welcomed 
now gave place to discontent and gloomy foreboding. 

Yet it did not seem as if the danger of a Gothic 
siege was very close at hand. Witigis remained at 
Ravenna ; and Belisarius ventured to send out detach- 
ments of his little army to conquer the province of 
Tuscany. One of his officers, Bessa the Goth, captured 
the rock fortress of Narni. Another, named Con- 
stantine, marched still further away, and occupied, 
without resistance from the inhabitants, the cities of 
Spoleto and Perugia. When Witigis learned that the 
emperor's troops were in possession of the latter place, 
nearly half way to Ravenna from Rome, he sent a 
body of soldiers, under two leaders named Hunila 
and Pitza, to try to recapture the city. The Goths 


far outnumbered the soldiers of Constantine, but the 
battle was long undecided. But in the end the Goths 
fled in confusion, hotly pursued by the Romans, who 
left few alive to tell the tale of their defeat. Hunila 
and Pitza were taken prisoners, and sent at once to 

After this disaster, Witigis saw that he must no 
longer remain inactive. His preparations were not 
so complete as he had wished, for the soldiers recalled 
from Gaul had not yet arrived. ' But even without 
these, the army which he had collected in the camp 
at Ravenna numbered 150,000 men, *'' nearly every one 
of whom wore a breastplate of steel." With this im- 
mense host King Witigis set out along the Flaminian 
Way, to lay siege to the city which was held by the 
little garrison of Belisarius. 

The king did not stop to attempt the recovery of 
the captured towns, but hurried forward without pause, 
eager to stand as soon as possible before the walls of 
Rome. From time to time the army met with parties 
of country people who had been turned out of Rome 
as " useless mouths," and were returning to their 
northern homes ; and as they told how heavily the 
city was burdened by the presence of the imperial 
army, Witigis bitterly reproached his own folly in 
abandoning his capital. Still, he thought that if he 
could only get Belisarius shut up within the walls his 
victory was secure. His great anxiety was lest when 
he arrived at his journey's end he should find that the 
bird had flown. " Is Belisarius still in Rome ? " was 
the question he impatiently asked of a priest who had 
left the city a day or two before. " Never fear for 


that," said the priest with a laugh ; " there is not 
much Hkelihood of his running away." Perhaps the 
priest thought that Witigis had more reason to dread 
Belisarius's remaining where he was than his escape. 

The Goths marched on without opposition until 
they came to the Milvian bridge, which crosses the 
Tiber about two miles north of Rome ; and' here they 
met with an unexpected check. Belisarius had built 
a gate-tower at the entrance of the bridge, and gar- 
risoned it with a body of soldiers strong enough to 
render its capture a tedious and costly piece of work. 
He did not expect to be able to prevent the Goths 
from crossing the river at all, but he was anxious to 
gain time, as he was expecting some more troops 
from Constantinople. Whether the enemy made an' 
attack on the tower, crossed in boats, or marched 
away to find another bridge, he thought he was sure 
of several days' delay. In order to make the passage 
still more troublesome, he determined to place his 
camp close to the river on the side nearest Rome. 

When Witigis saw how the bridge was protected, 
he was at a loss to know what to do. Most of his 
officers thought that the best course would be to 
make an assault on the tower. But it was decided 
not to attempt any movement until the following 

During the night, however, the soldiers in the tower 
took fright at the immense multitude of the enemy, 
and abandoned their post. They did not, of course, 
dare to go in the direction of Rome, but fled into 
Campania, all except twenty-two, who, being Goths 
themselves, deserted to their countrymen, and told 



them what had happened. When morning came, 
therefore, the Goths had only to batter down the 
gates, and went over the bridge without meeting any 

The same morning, Belisarius, thinking that the 
enemy was safe on the other side of the river, had 
ridden out with a thousand horsemen to choose a 
suitable place for his camp. Suddenly a fierce shout 
was heard, and the general's guard found themselves 
struggling with the van of the Gothic cavalry, who 
had just crossed the bridge. Belisarius, brave but 
imprudent, forgetting how much depended on his 
safety, rushed to the front, and fought like a common 
soldier. He was mounted on his favourite charger, a 
beautiful dark-brown horse with a white star on its 
forehead. The deserters recognized their late general, 
and the word was hastily passed through the Gothic 
ranks, "Aim at the horse with the white star." 
Hardly knowing what was meant, the Goths obeyed 
the hint, and charged with lances and swords upon 
the imperial commander. His body-guard gathered 
round him, and enclosed him within a wall of shields. 
After a desperate fight, the Goths retired to their 
camp with the loss of a thousand men. 

But now fresh bodies of cavalry came up, and the 
Romans, who had themselves suffered serious losses, 
were compelled to have recourse to flight. At the top 
of a hill, where they had halted for a moment's breath- 
ing space, they were overtaken by their pursuers, and 
the fight was renewed. Valentine, the groom of Beli- 
sarius's step-son, fought like a lion, and by his sole 
prowess succeeded in checking for a moment the 



advance of the enemy. But it was in vain to resist 
the overwhelming numbers of the Gothic host, and 
the Romans were driven close up to the walls of 
Rome. A few of the fugitives who had outstripped 
the rest found entrance into the city. They reported 
that Belisarius was killed, and that the enemy was in 
close pursuit. The gate was hastily flung to, and 
when Belisarius and his comrades had crossed the 
ditch they found themselves shut out In vain the 
general shouted and threatened ; the soldiers on the 
top of the tower did not recognize his voice, and in 
the gathering twilight his features, covered with blood 
and dust as they were, could not be distinguished. 
It seemed as if in another moment the Goths would 
have scrambled across the moat and massacred the 
little band huddled under the walls. A daring strata- 
gem of Belisarius saved himself and his companions 
from destruction. Drawing up his handful of men in 
battle array under cover of the darkness, he made a 
sudden charge upon the Goths, who, thinking that it 
was a sortie of the forces within the city, were seized 
with panic, and fled in confusion. The sentinels on 
the wall reported the flight of the enemy, and Beli- 
sarius with his brave little band was now allowed 
admission. The gate through which he passed was 
long known as " the gate of Belisarius." 

The historian who records the prowess of Belisarius 
tells also of a hero who on this memorable day dis- 
tinguished himself no less signally on the other side. 
It was a certain Wandilhari, appropriately surnamed 
Wisand (i.e., the Bison), who, pierced with thirteen 
wounds, was left for dead upon the battle-field. On 


the third day, his comrades, returning to bury the 
slain, found Wandilhari still breathing, though unable 
to speak. When water was poured into his mouth he 
revived a little, and was carried into the camp. 
Wandilhari the Bison lived to a great age, and was 
naturally held in the highest honour by his country- 
men for his wonderful display of bravery and en- 

Weary as Belisarius was with the toils and agitations 
of this long day, there remained yet much to be done 
before he could allow himself a moment's rest. His 
first care was to man the walls, which were thirteen 
miles in circuit. His little army could not spare soldiers 
enough for this duty, and he instructed his officers to 
muster all the able-bodied men in the several quarters 
of the city, dividing them into bands, some of them 
to occupy their appointed stations at once, and the 
others to take their places on the succeeding days and 
nights. At regular intervals along the walls large 
fires were to be kept burning during the moonless 
nights. The Goths remained watching the movements 
of those upon the wall, and when they saw by the 
light of the fires that men in civil costume were 
mingled with the soldiers, one of their chiefs, named 
Wakis, was sent to harangue the citizens on their 
treachery. " What madness has seized you, O 
Romans ! " he said, " that you should exchange 
your valiant protectors for a handful of wretched 
Greeks, who will never be able to defend you. What 
did Greece ever send to Italy but playactors and 
thieves ? " No one answered a word, and Wakis 
returned to the camp. 


Belisarlus meanwhile was occupied in apportioning 
to his principal officers the charge of the several gates. 
Before this task was completed, Bessa the Goth, who 
had been posted at the Praenestine gate, sent a 
messenger to say that the gate named after St. 
Pancrace had been forced, and that the enemy was 
in possession of the part of the city west of the 
Tiber. The general was earnestly besought by those 
about him to make his escape at once by some other 
gate. He ridiculed the story as absurd, and sent 
horsemen across the river to make inquiry. They 
soon returned with the report that all was quiet, and 
Belisarius gave strict orders to all the officers in com- 
mand at the gates that they should remain at their posts 
whatever tidings they might hear from other parts 
of the city. " Let each man attend to his own duty," 
he said, " and leave all the rest to me." 

From early morning Belisarius had been in cease- 
less activity without once tasting food. The intense 
excitement of the day made him insensible to the 
calls of hunger and fatigue, and it was not until long 
after midnight that his wife and friends could prevail 
on him to interrupt his labours to partake of a scanty 
meal. ' • 

The day which followed was the first day of the 
longest of all the many sieges which Rome has under- 
gone. It began early in March, 537, and lasted for one 
year and nine days. Belisarius entered on this great 
struggle with no fear for its result He foresaw that 
the vast army of the Goths, badly led and unused to 
the conduct of a siege, would dwindle away by famine 
and desertion before the walls of Rome, and that 


sooner or later the end would be the ruin of the Gothic 
kingdom, and the establishment of the imperial rule 
in Italy. The citizens could not understand his cheer- 
ful confidence in the face of such fearful odds, and 
sneered at him as a madman or a boastful Greek. 
His own soldiers wondered too, but their trust in their 
well-tried commander could not be shaken. 



The story of the long siege of Rome is one con- 
tinuous record of wonderful patience, resolution, and 
readiness of resource on the part of Belisarius, and of 
miserable incompetence on the part of his antagonist. 
The first thing which King Witigis attempted to do 
was to enclose Rome with a circle of stockaded 
camps. But the scale on which these camps were 
constructed was so ample that even the immense 
army of the Goths was insufficient to supply men to 
occupy more than seven of them, which blockaded 
eight out of the fourteen gates, leaving the six gates 
on the southern side of the city uninvested. The 
seven camps, each containing more than thrice the 
number of men who formed the garrison of Rome, 
were fortified with as much elaborate care as if they 
were intended to withstand an assault from an over- 
whelming force. King Witigis's principle of action 
was that it is never possible to be too secure. 

The next thing which the Goths did was, in imita- 
tion of Belisarius's own proceedings at Naples, to 
destroy the aqueducts that supplied Rome with 
water. Belisarius did not intend that Rome should 
be captured as he had taken Naples, and therefore 


he took care that the underground passages should 
be soHdly walled up. The cutting off of the supply 
from the aqueducts put an end to the enjoyment of 
the public baths, the great luxury of Roman life, and 
the complaints of the citizens were bitter. But with 
the river flowing through the city, and the wells 
belonging to private houses, there was not much 
reason to fear that want of water would compel 
Belisarius to surrender. 

One of the aqueducts, however, had furnished the 
water-power to the corn-mills, and the consequence 
of the cutting-off of the stream was that the daily 
supply of flour could not be doled out to the soldiers 
and the citizens. Belisarius therefore contrived to 
have two barges moored just below the ^lian Bridge, 
near the northern wall of the city, with a water-wheel 
between them, so that the stream, rushing with force 
from under the arch of the bridge, should turn the 
wheel, and so drive the mills which were placed on 
the barges. The Goths were informed of this device 
by deserters, and sent floating down the river a quan- 
tity of large trunks of trees and bodies of dead 
Romans, and by this means managed to upset the 
machinery. However, Belisarius's ingenuity was equal 
to this occasion also. He caused long iron chains to 
be drawn across the opening of the bridge, which 
intercepted everything that came down the stream, 
and men were employed from time to time to clear 
away the obstructions which had accumulated. This 
contrivance served a double purpose, for it prevented 
the possibility of a night attack being made by boats 
sailing under the bridge, 


After a few days had passed Witigis began to think 
that the capture of Rome would not prove so easy an 
undertaking as he had fancied. He therefore deter- 
mined to see whether Belisarius could be induced to 
surrender by the offer of honourable conditioLS. A 
Gothic chief named Albes, accompanied by several 
other nobles, was sent into the city with a communi- 
cation to Belisarius. He found the general surrounded 
by his staff and the principal senators, and addressed 
him in a formal speech, bidding him look from the 
walls at the vast numbers of the besiegers and con- 
sider whether it would not be mere foolhardiness to 
think of resisting them. 

Belisarius grimly replied that the question whether 
resistance was " foolhardiness " or not was his con- 
cern and not theirs, and that he did not intend to be 
guided by the advice which they offered him. Resist 
he would, and a time would come when the Goths 
would be glad to hide themselves if they could even 
in the bramble-bushes. Rome belonged to the 
emperor ; the Gothic intruders who had stolen it had 
been turned out, and so long as Belisarius lived they 
should not come back. 

After Belisarius had spoken, Albes and his com- 
panions looked expectantly at the senators. They 
had heard from deserters how fiercely some of the 
principal Romans had talked (in private) about the 
conduct of Belisarius, and they thought that the 
appeal made by Albes would call forth such a burst 
of indignation as would compel the general to yield. 
But the senators sat pale and trembling, and none of 
them dared to speak a word except a certain Fidelius, 


whom Belisarius had made Praetorian Prefect, and 
who loaded the Goths with abuse. 

The envoys went back to the Gothic camp, and 
were received by Witigis with the eager inquiry, 
" What sort of a man is BeHsarius ? Is he going to 
give way ? " They repHed with emphasis that the 
Goths had made a great mistake in thinking they 
could frighten that man by anything they could say 
or do. On receiving this report the king hurried on 
his preparations for taking the city by storm. 

The preparations were on a magnificent scale. All 
the machines which the miHtary engineers of those 
times were able to devise for the assault on a fortress 
were constructed in large numbers. There were wooden 
towers on wheels equal in height to the walls of the 
city. These were intended to be dragged by ojxen 
close up to thQ walls, so that the archers on the top 
could fight on a level with the defenders of the ram- 
parts. Then there were the battering-rams, which 
consisted of huge beams of wood, each carrying a 
block of iron at the end and suspended in chains from 
a wooden framework. The machine moved on four 
wheels, and was worked from within by fifty men 
who dragged back the heavy " ram," and then allowed 
it to swing against the wall. The whole structure 
was covered with skins to protect the men who were 
inside. Scaling-ladders, too, were prepared to be 
used when the soldiers on the wooden towers should 
have succeeded in clearing a portion of the wall of its 
defenders ; and fascines^ that is to say, bundles of 
reeds and brushwood, were made in order to fi^l up the 
ditch so as to make a road across it for the machines. 



Belisarius for his part was equally busy in or- 
ganizing the defence. His army had dwindled down 
to five thousand men, and it cost him a great deal of 
thought to distribute this little force to the best 
advantage. The tomb of the great emperor Hadrian, 
a vast building faced with marble, which stood in the 
line of the city wall at the western end of the ^lian 
Bridge, was converted into a fort,^ and such it has 
continued to be till this day, when it is known as the 
Castle of St. Angelo. All round the walls of the city 

{Castle of St. Angelo.) 

Belisarius mounted those destructive engines which 
served the Romans as artillery — machines which 
hurled immense stones and bolts of iron with tre- 
mendous velocity and effect. 

It was not till the eighteenth day of the siege that 
the Goths considered themselves ready to begin the 

^ It is usually supposed, however, that this had been done at an 
earlier date. At any rate, Belisarius repaired and greatly strengthened 
the building. 


attack. As soon as the sun rose the Romans gathered 
on the northern wall saw with terror the countless 
host of the enemy approaching with their battering- 
rams and their siege-towers drawn by oxen. The 
citizens gave themselves up for lost, but their fears 
became mixed with indignation when Belisarius, 
instead of seeming to appreciate the gravity of the 
situation, actually burst out laughing, and ordered the 
soldiers not to shoot an arrow till he gave the word. 
" What might such conduct mean ? Was it madness, 
or worse than madness ? " were the questions which 
one asked of another among the crowd. At last, 
when the enemy had reached the very edge of the 
moat, Belisarius took up a bow and aimed at one of 
the Gothic leaders. The man was clothed in armour, 
but the arrow hit him in the neck, and he fell to the 
ground mortally wounded. The Romans, startled 
out of their discontent, burst into a great cheer, which 
was renewed when the general again drew his bow 
with a like result. And then Belisarius gave the 
signal to the whole army to discharge their arrows, 
ordering those in his own neighbourhood to aim only 
at the oxen. In a few moments all the oxen were 
killed, and the huge machines which they drew were 
rendered useless. It was easy to see now what Belisa- 
rius had been laughing at, and why he had allowed 
the enemy to come so close before allowing his archers 
to use their weapons. 

When Witigis saw that the attack on the northern 
side of the city had failed, he determined to direct 
his efforts to the eastern side — to the neighbourhood 
of the Prainestine gate, towards which another body 


of Goths was approaching, also with their siege- 
towers and battering-rams. But he left a large 
detachment of his army on the northern side, leaving 
orders that they should not make any attempt to 
storm the walls, but should keep up a vigorous dis- 
charge of arrows, so that Belisarius might not suspect 
that the main assault was being attempted elsewhere. 
Those who were left behind did their best to carry 
out these instructions, but fighting on the level 
ground against men posted on the wall they were 
not able to produce much effect. There was, how- 
ever, amongst them one famous warrior of noble 
rank, who found a substitute for the siege-tower in 
a tall tree, to the top of which he climbed, notwith- 
standing the weight of his helmet and cuirass, and 
from that elevated position was able to do much 
execution amongst the defenders of the ramparts. 
At last he was hit by a shot from one of the Roman 
engines. The iron bolt went right through the man's 
steel-clad body, and pinned him to the tree. His 
comrades were so much aghast at the sight that they 
retired to a safe distance out of the way of those 
terrible machines, and the defenders of that portion 
of the walls were no more molested. 

But now Belisarius received a message to say that 
the assault on the eastern fortifications had begun. 
He hastened to the spot, and by a few timely words 
encouraged his soldiers, who had begun to lose heart 
when they saw the numbers and equipment of the 
enemy. Near the Praenestine gate was a space en- 
closed between the city rampart and an outer wall, 
where in heathen days were kept the wild beasts in- 


'tended for the cruel sports of the amphitheatre. The 
Goths broke through the outer wall, and crowded 
into the enclosure. The inner wall, they had been 
truly informed, was much decayed, and they thought 
it would give them little trouble. But Belisarius 
directed one of his chief officers to make a sally 
upon the throng collected between the walls. The 
unexpected attack threw the Goths into confusion, 
and they were slaughtered by thousands almost unre- 
sisting, thinking only of making their escape by the 
breach through which they had entered. Then, 
opening the gate, Belisarius issued with the main 
body of his army to pursue the fugitives, who imparted 
their terror to their comrades beyond the outer wall. 
Soon the besiegers were all in headlong flight, and 
Belisarius ordered a great fire to be made of their 
forsaken towers and battering-rams. 

What happened else during this eventful day need 
not be told in detail. It may be mentioned that in their 
attack on the fort that had been Hadrian's tomb the 
Goths were nearly winning, until it occurred to the 
defenders to pull down the statues, and hurl them, 
whole or in fragments, upon the heads of their 
assailants. More than one famous work of Greek 
sculpture has been found in modern times in the 
moat which surrounds the Castle of St. Angelo ; 
probably many another lies buried there still. The 
sacrifice of the statues saved the fortress : the besiegers 
abated the fury of their assault, and then the imperial 
soldiers, set free by the termination of the fighting in 
other parts of the city, came up and soon put them to 


On all sides the Gothic attack had ended in disaster. 
Thirty thousand Goths had been slain, and many- 
thousands wounded, and the towers and the battering- 
rams were captured and burnt It was far on in the 
evening when the battle ceased. "The Romans spent 
the night in singing songs of victory, extolling the 
fame of Belisarius, and displaying the spoils taken 
from the slain ; the Goths in attending on their 
wounded comrades, and in wailing for those that were 
no more." 

After this crushing failure no further attempt was 
made to storm the walls of Rome. Through the 
remainder of the long siege the aim of Witigis was 
to compel Belisarius to surrender under pressure of 
hunger, or to tempt him to squander the lives of his 
little garrison in fruitless sorties. 

Belisarius guessed at once that the Goths, now that 
their assault had decisively failed, would endeavour 
to establish an efficient blockade. He, therefore, 
promptly took measures for economizing the stock 
of provisions in the city. On the very day after the 
battle he ordered that the daily rations of food to the 
soldiers should be reduced to one-half, the diminution 
being compensated by increased pay in money ; and 
all the women, children, and slaves in the city were 
sent away to Naples, some of them being conveyed 
in boats, others travelling on foot along the Appian 
Way. It would have been to the interest of the 
Goths to prevent this procession of non-combatants 
from escaping from Rome ; but they were so dis- 
couraged by their defeat of yesterday that nothing 
was done. And so the fugitives all found their way 


to Naples, whence some of them were removed to the 
other south Italian towns, and others took refuge in 

What made Belisarius anxious was that he received 
no tidings of the additional troops that the emperor 
had promised to send him. They had sailed from 
Constantinople about Christmas, but, meeting with 
stormy weather, had sought shelter on the western 
coast of Greece, and there they still remained. 
Belisarius could not understand this strange delay, 
and wrote a letter to Justinian, telling him that unless 
aid came speedily Rome must surely fall. The letter 
concluded with these words : " I know that it is 
my duty to sacrifice even my life in your service, 
and therefore no force shall make me abandon this 
place while I live. But what sort of fame will be 
yours if you allow Belisarius to come to such an 
end .? " 

Justinian was deeply moved by this appeal, and 
sent peremptory orders to the lagging commanders, 
Valerian and Martin, that they should push forward 
with all speed to Rome. He also made vigorous 
efforts to raise a new army to be sent to the aid of his 
heroic general. In a few days Belisarius was able to 
cheer the hearts of his soldiers by reading to them the 
emperor's letter, announcing that the wished-for rein- 
forcements were on their way. 

It was not until twenty-two days after the attempted 
storm that Valerian and Martin, with sixteen hundred 
men, arrived in Rome. The Goths had made little use 
of the delay ; indeed they were so discouraged by the 
failure of their assault that they scarcely attempted to 


guard the roads leading to Rome from the south, but 
remained idle in their entrenchments. 

By way of revenge for the losses he had sustained, 
Witigis despatched orders that the senators detained 
as hostages at Ravenna should be put to death. 
According to the laws of war these men had forfeited 
their lives ; but the execution of the penalty was as 
foolish as it was cruel, for the only effect it could have 
was to embitter the hatred which the Romans felt for 
their former barbarian masters, and to inspire them 
with the resolve to fight to the bitter end. 

When the sixteen hundred new soldiers had entered 
Rome, Belisarius ventured to send out skirmishing 
parties of mounted archers to make attacks upon the 
Goths. Their tactics were to avoid all close fighting, 
but simply to discharge their arrows at the enemy, 
and when their quivers were empty to gallop back to 
the gates. This mode of combat proved perfectly 
successful. The little bands did fearful execution 
with their bows, and the pursuit of the enemy was 
easily stopped b}^ volleys of stones from the engines 
on the walls. After this manoeuvre had been repeated 
several times, Witigis thought he had discovered a 
valuable secret of Roman warfare. It was plain that 
small bodies of light horse were more easily managed 
than masses of heavy troops, and afforded the most 
effective means of inflicting damage upon an enemy. 
Accordingly, he sent a troop of five hundred cavalry, 
with orders to take up their position near the Roman 
fortifications. What happened was that a thousand 
picked men issued from one of the gates some distance 
away, and, under cover of the inequalities of the 



ground, came suddenly on the five hundred Goths, 
took them in the rear, and left only a few of them 
alive to return to their camp. King Witigis raved 
and stormed about their cowardice, and said he would 
soon find others who would succeed where they had 
failed. Three days afterwards a second five hundred, 
chosen for their known bravery out of all the seven 
camps, were sent to avenge the defeat of their 
comrades, and, before setting out, were harangued 
by the king, who bade them act worthily of the fame 
they had won in former battles. Bravely they may 
have fought, but they were met by a Roman force of 
three times their number, and perished almost to a 

Belisarius wished to continue this method of skir- 
mishing, by which he was able to do the enemy a 
great deal of mischief with very little loss on his own 
side. His troops had been thoroughly trained in the 
art of using the bow on horseback ; to the Goths that 
mode of warfare was quite unfamiliar, so that when 
it was employed against them they did not know 
how to meet it. But unfortunately for the Romans, 
their easily won victories had inspired them with an 
unwise contempt for the enemy, and they implored 
Belisarius to lead them in one grand assault on the 
Gothic camp. He was very unwilling to do this, but 
the army showed great discontent at his refusal, and 
the feeling was encouraged by the citizens, who 
actually assailed the general wnth reproaches for his 
want of courage, because he dared not risk a pitched 
battle with an enemy that outnumbered his own 
troops more than tenfold. At last Belisarius thought 


it might be better to yield to the demand than to 
provoke a mutiny. Perhaps, after all, he thought, 
just at this moment, when the Romans were full of 
ardour, and the enemy was disheartened by con- 
tinued ill-fortune, it might be possible to win a battle 
even against such overwhelming odds. 

It was with grave anxiety that Belisarius led forth 
his little army against the foe. King Witigis had 
been informed by deserters of the intended attack, 
and he marshalled all his troops in battle array, 
leaving none in the camps but the sick and wounded. 
His speech to his soldiers, as reported by the Roman 
historian, was not without dignity. " You know," he 
said, "that I have always treated you more as friends 
and fellow-soldiers than as subjects. Some of you 
may think that I, in so doing, have merely flattered 
you because I feared the loss of my crown ; and you 
may think that it is from the same motive that I now 
call on you to put forth all your valour. Such sus- 
picions are natural, and I cannot blame them. But, 
in truth, I would thankfully lay aside this purple robe 
to-day, if I knew that another Goth would wear it in 
my stead. Whatever ill might happen to myself, it 
would not be without consolation, if my people did 
not share in it. But I remember the fate of the 
Vandals. I seem to see the Goths and their children 
sold for slaves, their wives abandoned to the insults 
of the vilest of men, and their queen, the child of 
Theoderic's daughter, led away whithersoever it 
might please our enemies. Will you not chose a 
glorious death rather than safety on such terms? If 
such be your spirit, you will easily vanquish these 


few wretched Greeks, to whom you are as far supe- 
rior in valour as in numbers, and will inflict on them 
the chastisement they deserve for all the wrongs and 
insults they have made you suffer." 

The result of the battle justified the misgivings 
of Belisarius. After much hard fighting, the Romans 
were put to flight, the enemy pursuing them hotly 
almost to the walls. A (qw of them succeeded in 
passing through the gates, and hastily closed them, 
leaving their comrades gathered in a dense mass be- 
tween the ditch and the wall. Their spears were 
broken, and they were so crowded together that they 
could not use their bows. If the Goths had ventured 
to cross the ditch they might have massacred their 
enemies without difficulty ; but the soldiers and 
citizens began to assemble upon the wall, and the 
besiegers were afraid to pursue their advantage. 
They retired to their encampment with shouts of 
exultation over their victory. 

The Roman soldiers had received a severe lesson, 
and never again ventured to distrust the sagacity of 
their general. Belisarius resumed his plan of skir- 
mishing with mounted archers, and, as before, was 
nearly always victorious. So passed away the next 
three months of the siege. The historian Procopius, 
who was with Belisarius in Rome, has preserved for 
us many incidents of the conflicts that took place 
during this period. One of these stories is perhaps 
worth repeating here. On a certain evening ii happened 
that the Roman soldiers had been worsted in a skir- 
mish, and one of them in his flight fell through a hole 
into an underground vault, from which he could find 


no means of escape. He did not dare to cry out, 
lest he should be heard by the Goths, and so he re- 
mained there all the night. The next day a Gothic 
soldier suffered the same mishap ; and the Goth and 
the Roman, finding themselves prisoners together, 
became good friends, and agreed that if either of 
them succeeded in getting out of the trap he would 
help the other to escape also. They both shouted 
with all their might, and at last they were heard by 
a party of Goths, who stooped down to the hole, and 
called out "Who is there?" "A comrade," the 
Gothic soldier replied, in his own language ; " I fell 
into this hole this morning, and cannot get out." A 
rope was lowered into the vault, and there ascended, 
not the Goth, but the Roman ! The Gothic soldiers 
were stupefied with amazement. " There were two 
of us," the Roman explained ; " your comrade is still 
below. We knew very well that if he had come out 
first you would not have troubled yourselves about 
w^." So the rope was let down again, and this time 
it brought up the Goth, who said that he had given 
his word that his fellow-prisoner should be set at 
liberty. The promise was respected, and the Roman 
soldier was allowed to return to the city, none the 
worse for his adventure. 

About midsummer a certain Euthalius landed at 
Terracina, sixty-two miles from Rome along the 
Appian Way, bringing with him the pay which was 
due to the soldiers. The treasure was conveyed safely 
into Rome, but at that moment food would have been 
more welcome than gold ; for the besieged people 
were now beginning to feel the pangs of hunger. 

THE sybil's prophecy. 249 

Probably Witigis got to hear that a large sum of 
money had been brought into Rome, and this may 
have been what made him think of blockading the 
southern approaches to the city. It is strange that 
he should not have done this long before, but he 
seems to have clung to the hope that the place might 
be taken by storm. Now, however, he took posses- 
sion of a point about four miles from Rome, where 
two lines of aqueducts cross one another twice within 
a few hundred yards, and he converted the arches of 
the aqueducts into a fortress, commanding the Ap- 
pian and the Latin Ways. Here he placed a guard 
of seven thousand men. 

There was now no hope that any further supplies 
could be imported into the city. The soldiers had still 
a stock of corn, but all their other provisions were 
exhausted. The citizens were obliged to feed on the 
grass and weeds that grew inside the walls. Famine 
and fever were every day lessening the numbers of 
the besieged. 

Until July was ended, the courage of the defenders 
was sustained by superstition. For some months 
past people had quoted a couplet which professed to 
be a prophecy of the ancient Sibyl, and which said 
that " when Ouintilis (the old name of July) had 
come, a new emperor would ascend the throne, and 
Rome should never again fear the Gothic sword." 
Christians though the Romans were, they still be- 
lieved in the Sibyl, and eagerly accepted every 
foolish verse that was uttered in her name. But 
Ouintilis came and went, and still Justinian reigned 
and still the Goths surrounded Rome. 


The last hope of the citizens was gone, and in 
desperation they went to BeHsarius, and begged him 
to give them arms. " Let us fight for ourselves," 
they said, " and either conquer or end our miseries by 
a speedy death." Belisarius ridiculed their demand, 
and told them that having never learned to fight they 
would be worse than useless in the field. " But," he 
added, " I expect in a few days the arrival of the 
greatest army that the empire has ever mustered. 
These new troops have already landed in the south 
of Italy, and will bring with them ample supplies 
of provisions. I promise you that they will bury 
the enemy's camp with the multitude of their 

This was only an empty boast. There was indeed 
a rumour that an imperial army was on the way, 
but Belisarius knew nothing for certain. However, 
he despatched his secretary Procopius to Naples to 
see what truth there was in the story, and if it should 
not be true, to collect what soldiers he could, and to 
send victuals by sea to relieve the needs of the 

Procopius reached Naples in safety ; the expected 
troops had not yet been heard of, but he was able to get 
together a band of five hundred men, and to fit out a 
large number of ships and load them with provisions. 
Before his preparations were completed, the promised 
army arrived from Constantinople — not the innume- 
rable host of which Belisarius had boasted, but only 
about five thousand men. Late in the autumn this 
body of soldiers arrived at Ostia, at the mouth of the 
Tiber, half of them having travelled by the Appian 


Way, and the rest having come by sea in charge of 
the victualling fleet collected by Procopius. 

Meanwhile King Witigis had managed matters so 
badly that his own army was suffering from want of 
food. Famine and fever too were rapidly thinning 
the ranks of the besiegers, and they grew so spiritless 
that the Romans were able to assume the offensive, 
and even to intercept the supplies of corn and of cattle 
on their way to the Gothic camp. 

So when the Goths heard that "an immense army" 
— for this was what rumour called it — was coming 
to the relief of Rome, they abandoned all hope of 
victory, and were anxious to treat for peace. Our 
old friend, Cassiodorus, accompanied by two Gothic 
chiefs, was sent into the city to try to induce Belisarius 
to come to terms. 

The envoys were admitted into the general's pre- 
sence, and Cassiodorus began by saying that as the war 
hitherto had been productive of nothing but misery 
to either party, it would be to the interest of both if 
by mutual concession they could arrive at some under- 
standing so as to put an end to the struggle. He 
proposed that the matter should be discussed, not in 
set speeches, but in an informal conversation, so tliat 
each point should be fully dealt with at the time when 
it was raised. " Very well," said Belisarius, " there is 
no objection to that, if only what you hav^e to say is 
to the purpose." But Cassiodorus could not resist 
the temptation to make a long speech, in which he 
argued that the emperor had no justification for the 
attack he had made upon the Goths. Theoderic had 
not taken Italy by force from the empire : it had been 


made over to him by Zeno, on condition of his 
putting down the tyrant Odovacar. He had ful- 
filled the condition, and he and his successors had 
ruled Italy according to Roman law, and with every 
regard to the welfare of the native inhabitants. It 
was therefore the duty of the Romans to desist 
from their unjust encroachments. Let them retire 
from Italy with the booty they had taken, and leave 
the Goths to govern their rightful dominions in 

All this reasoning was very sound, but it was not 
likely to make any impression on Belisarius. He 
replied that Theoderic had been sent to conquer Italy 
for the empire to which it belonged, and instead of 
fulfilling his commission he had usurped the throne 
himself " I do not see," he added, " much difference 
between robbery and embezzlement. The country 
belongs to the emperor, and it is useless to ask me to 
give it to any one else. If you have any other request 
to make say on." 

" You know very well," answered Cassiodorus, " that 
we have spoken nothing but the truth. But as a proof 
of our wish to make every honourable concession, we 
agree that you shall retain possession of Sicily " — and 
then, with his accustomed eloquence, he proceeded to 
favour Belisarius with statistics about the size of the 
island, and the revenues which it yielded every year, 
and to enlarge on its importance from a military point 
of view. 

" We are greatly obliged to you," said Belisarius. 
*' In return for so great generosity, we will grant you 
the possession of the whole of Britain. That is a 


larger island than Sicily, and it tised to belong to us, 
just as Sicily once belonged to you." 

The Goths then suggested that they might give up 
Naples and the whole south of Italy, and agree to pay 
a yearly tribute to the emperor. But Belisarius had 
only one reply : that he had no authority to surrender 
any of the territories of the empire. 

" Well then," said Cassiodorus, " will you agree to 
a truce for a fixed time, so that we may send ambas- 
sadors to Constantinople to negotiate a treaty with 
the emperor himself?" 

Belisarius accepted this proposal, and the envoys 
went back to their camp. 

Several days were spent in settling the conditions 
of the truce, and in debating what hostages should be 
given on each side. In the meantime Belisarius had 
brought the new soldiers, and the cargoes of the pro- 
vision ships, safely up from Ostia into Rome. The 
Goths dared not offer any opposition, thinking that if 
they did so, Belisarius would break off the negotia- 

At length, however, about Christmas, the articles 
were signed for a truce of three months ; the hostages 
were exchanged, and the Gothic ambassadors set out 
for Constantinople, accompanied by a Roman escort. 
Belisarius then sent two thousand soldiers, under the 
command of a certain John, of whom we shall often 
hear again, to Alba Fucentia, seventy miles east of 
Rome. John was instructed to remain quiet so long 
as the truce was unbroken ; but as soon as the Goths 
committed any act of hostility, he was to ravage the 
Gothic territories, to carry off the women and children 

254 ^-^^ YEAR- LONG SIEGE. 

as slaves, and to bring back all the plunder of every 
kind that he could. 

The required pretext was not long wanting. It 
seems almost incredible that Witigis should have been 
foolish enough to violate the truce which he had sought 
with so much eagerness, but the historian tells of three 
different attempts which he made to surprise the city. 
One dark night a sentinel, looking out from the watch- 
tower at the Pincian gate, reported that he had seen a 
sudden flash of light close to the ground a short dis- 
tance from the wall. His comrades thought he had 
seen the flaming eyes of a wolf But when, on the 
following day, Belisarius heard the story, he guessed 
at once that the Goths, imitating his own stratagem 
at Naples, were trying to get into the city through an 
aqueduct, and that what the man had seen was the 
light of their torches streaming for a moment through 
a crack in the tunnel. The aqueduct was examined, 
and there were found in it the droppings of torches 
and some Gothic lamps. The party of explorers had 
been stopped by the wall with which Belisarius had 
blocked up the passage, and they had carried away 
one of the stones to show to Witigis in proof of the 
truth of their story. Belisarius placed a guard over 
the aqueduct, and the Goths made no attempt to 
enter the city by that means. 

On another occasion the Goths had prepared 
scaling-ladders and torches to make an attack during 
the hour of the soldier's midday meal, but the plan 
was discovered, and the assaulting party was dispersed 
with some loss. The third scheme of Witigis was to 
bribe two Romans who lived near the part of the wall 


bordering on the Tiber, to treat the sentinels with 
drugged wine. When the sentinels had fallen asleep, 
the Goths were to make their entrance by means of 
boats and ladders. One of the Romans who had 
entered into the plot betrayed it to Belisarius ; and 
pointed out his accomplice, who confessed his guilt 
and was sent to the Gothic camp tied upon an ass 
and with his nose and ears cut off. 

After these events, Belisarius of course considered 
himself to be no longer bound by the truce, and he 
sent letters to John ordering him to commence hos- 
tilities at once. John was nothing loth to obey ; he 
was the bravest of the brave, but as cruel as he 
was fearless (John the Sanguinary, he was called 
in his own day), and the sight of burning farms and 
strings of weeping captive women and children only 
filled his heart with brutal joy. With his two 
thousand horsemen he hurried northward, plunder- 
ing and destroying all that belonged to Gothic 
owners, but respecting scrupulously the possessions 
of the native Italians. An army of Goths, under 
under Wilitheus, the uncle of King Witigis, came to 
meet him, but the battle resulted in the death of 
Wilitheus and the slaughter of most of his men. After 
this victory^.- John marched forward unopposed to 
Rimini, on the Adriatic, whither he was invited by 
the Roman inhabitants. The Gothic garrison, as soon 
as they heard of his approach, ran away to Ravenna, 
and John occupied Rimini without a struggle. 

While John was at Rimini he received letters from 
Queen Mataswintha, offering to betray the Goths into 
his hands and to become his wife. No doubt the pro- 


posal included the murder of Witigis, whom she hated 
with all her heart for having forced her to marry him. 

In pressing forward to the Adriatic, John was dis- 
obeying Belisarius's orders, which were to assault every 
fortress that he came to, and if he were unable to 
capture it then to proceed no further, lest his retreat 
should be cut off. He thought, however, that when 
the Goths heard that he had captured Rimini, which 
was only a day's march from Ravenna, they would at 
once abandon the siege of Rome. He had calculated 
rightly. The three months of truce was ended ; 
nothing had been heard from Constantinople ; the 
camp was destitute of provisions, and the city was in 
a better condition of defence than ever. And when 
to all these discouraging circumstances there was 
added the news that Ravenna was threatened by the 
enemy, Witigis delayed no longer. Early one morn- 
ing (near the end of March, 538), the sentinels on the 
walls of Rome reported that the seven Gothic camps 
had been set on fire, and that the whole army of the 
besiegers was moving northward along the Flaminian 

Belisarius was somewhat taken by surprise at this 
sudden departure, and felt at first doubtful whether it 
would not be best to allow the enemy to retreat un- 
molested. But the fact that the Gothic army would 
have to cross the Milvian Bridge, two miles from Rome, 
rendered it possible for an attack on their rear to be 
successfully made with a small force. Belisarius 
armed all his soldiers, and, waiting till most of the 
Goths had crossed the river, he led a furious charge 
on those that were still on the nearest bank. After 



some hard fighting, and heavy losses on both sides, 
the Goths fled in confusion, and many thousands of 
them perished, some by the swords of their enemies, 
while others, in their frantic haste to escape, were 
crushed to death by their comrades, or fell into the 
river loaded with their armour and were drowned. 

So ended the first siege of Rome by the Ostrogoths. 
Perhaps never in the history of warfare were such 
splendid advantages of numbers so shamefully thrown 
away through the incompetence of a general. But in 
spite of all, the nation continued faithful to the king 
of its own choice. 




Sorely as the Gothic ranks had been thinned by- 
famine, pestilence, and the sword, it was still an enor- 
mous army that Witigis led away from the walls of 
Rome. The joy that Belisarius felt at the raising of 
the siege was mixed with some anxiety, for the way 
to Ravenna was through Rimini, where John, still 
remained with his two thousand horsemen. The 
general knew the headstrong character of his sub- 
ordinate, and he feared that John might allow himself 
to be besieged by the Goths, and that the consequence 
would be the total destruction of his little force. 

To prevent such a calamity Belisarius put one thou- 
sand horsemen under two trusty officers, Hildiger and 
Martin, and commanded them to convey to John his 
orders to withdraw with his cavalry from Rimini, and to 
leave the place in charge of a small garrison of foot- 
soldiers, summoned from the lately taken fortress of 
Ancona. Belisarius thought that if Witigis found 
that Rimini contained neither cavalry nor any officers 
important enough to be valuable prisoners, he would 
not think it worth while to besiege the place ; and 
even if he did so, John and his horsemen would be 
able to cause the Goths a great deal of annoyance, 


and probably to compel them to abandon the 

Hildiger and Martin found no difficulty in out- 
stripping the slow march of the Goths. On their 
way they captured a Gothic post at a place called the 
Tunnelled Rock (Petra Pertusa), where the road run- 
ning along a ledge in the side of a precipitous cliff 
overhanging a deep river-gorge, passes through a 
tunnel forty feet long, cut through the solid rock in 
the time of the emperor Vespasian. By way of 
securing this passage, the two openings had been 
walled up and provided with gates. The Goths 
made no attempt at fighting, but took shelter inside 
their huts at the farther end of the tunnel. So the 
Romans climbed up to the top of the cliffs, and dis- 
lodging huge masses of rock sent them rolling down 
upon the roofs of the huts. The Gothic soldiers then 
not only opened the gate, but offered to enter the 
emperor's service, and the greater part of them ac- 
companied the Roman horsemen on their forward 
march, while the rest, together with a few Romans, 
were left behind to guard the tunnel. After this, 
Hildiger and Martin met with no resistance, and 
going round by way of Ancona, where they selected 
from the garrison the required number of infantry, 
they proceeded to Rimini, and delivered their orders 
to John. He flatly refused to obey, and the two 
officers went back to Rome. They left the foot 
soldiers behind, but taking back with them a few of 
the garrison of Rimini, who being part of Belisarius's 
own guard were not subject to John's commands. 

Soon afterwards the vast army of the Goths arrived 


before Rimini, and attempted to storm the walls with 
the help of a wooden tower on wheels, like those which 
they had tried to employ in the siege of Rome ; but, 
mindful of their former faijure, they contrived that 
the machine should be propelled by men inside in- 
stead of being drawn by oxen. Most of the Romans, 
when they saw these preparations, gave themselves up 
for lost ; but the energy of John was equal to the need. 
In the dead of night he issued from the walls with a 
band of men armed with spades, and dug a deep 
trench between the siege tower and the walls. So the 
attack, like every other undertaking managed by 
King Witigis, resulted in failure and the loss of 
hundreds of Gothic lives. The Goths therefore 
determined not to try any more to carry the city by 
storm, but to s-tarve out the little garrison by a strict 
blockade — no difficult task, unless, as did not seem 
likely, Belisarius should be able to send a powerful 
army to the rescue. 

While the Goths were encamped before Rimini, a 
body of a thousand Romans, at the invitation of the 
citizens, had entered the great city of Milan. Witigis 
was greatly enraged to hear of the faithlessness of 
the Milanese, and sent his nephew Uraias [Wraihya] 
with a large detachment of his army, to besiege the 
city, ordering him, when it should be taken, to show 
no mercy to the traitors. Uraias was joined by 
ten thousand Burgunds, whom the Prankish king 
Theudebert had sent in aid of the Goths, and Milan 
was so closely blockaded that no food could be brought 
into the city. 

Just at this tirne (about rnidsummer 538) a new 


imperial army landed at Ancona, commanded by 
Narses, the emperor's chamberlain. 

This Narses, though he had not had a soldier's 
education, possessed a great deal of native military 
genius, and we shall hear how, fourteen years later, 
his bold and skilful generalship effected the ruin of 
the Gothic kingdom, and made his master Justinian 
undisputed sovereign of Italy. But on the present 
occasion his coming wrought little but mischief to the 
Roman cause. The truth seems to be that Justinian 
was beginning to fear least Belisarius's victorious 
career might end in his aspiring to the diadem of the 
Western Empire, and that Narses was sent as a sort 
of spy. Although the emperor's letter to the officers 
of the army said expressly that Narses was not sent 
to take the command, but that Belisarius was to be 
obeyed " in all that tended to the good of the state," 
there were many who thought this assurance was 
merely an empty form, and looked to the chamberlain 
for their orders. Narses for his part continually dis- 
approved of the general's plans, and refused to carry 
them out. When Belisarius claimed obedience, the 
chamberlain coolly answered that he considered that 
the proposed course was not " for the good of the 
state," and therefore neither he nor the officers were 
bound to agree to it. It is easy to see how dangerous 
such a state of things would be, in the presence of an 
enemy immensely superior in numbers. 

Belisarius, however, did not know the temper in 
which Narses had come, and he advanced with all his 
army to meet him, congratulating himself on so large 
an addition to his forces. The two leaders met at 


Firmium, a town near the Adriatic shore, a day's 
march south of Ancona, and a great council of war was 
held to decide on the plan of operations to be adopted. 
The question debated was* whether the first step 
should be to relieve the garrison of Rimini, or to 
make an attack on the fortress of Auximum, which 
was held by four thousand Goths commanded by 

The general feeling was that it would be highly 
dangerous to leave Auximum in Gothic hands. It 
seemed likely that if they did so, the Romans would 
be taken in the rear by Wisand while they were 
engaged with the great army of Witigis. " Let us 
first reduce Auximum," urged several speakers, " and 
then proceed to the relief of Rimini. If in the 
meantime Rimini is taken, the fault will not be ours, 
but John's, because if he had obeyed orders he would 
not be there at all." Now Narses was a great friend 
of John, and he pleaded his cause so eloquently, 
showing how the capture of the two thousand and 
their commander would raise the courage of the Goths, 
that Belisarius decided to run the risk of an immediate 
march against the besiegers. He divided his army into 
three parts, sending the largest division, under Hildiger, 
by sea, with orders to anchor in front of Rimini at 
the same time that the second division, under Martin, 
arrived by the road along the coast. Belisarius him- 
self, accompanied by Narses, marched through the 
mountains, passing Rimini at the distance of a two days* 
journey, so that he could bear down upon the besiegers 
from the north. His object was to frighten the Goths 
by the sight of an enemy approaching them from 


three sides at once. In this he was successful. A 
Gothic foraging party, surprised by the troops of 
Behsarius, fled to the camp with the news that an 
enormous army was advancing from the north ; the 
same night the camp-fires of Martin's division were 
descried eight miles away to the south ; and the 
rising sun shone on the sails of a Roman fleet in the 

In a few hours the whole army of the Goths was 
in headlong flight towards Ravenna, leaving in the 
camp the sick and wounded, and not a little of their 
property, to become the plunder of the soldiers of 
Hildiger. About noon Belisarius arrived, and when 
he saw the pale and wasted forms of John and his 
companions, he told John that he ought to be very 
thankful to Hildiger. " Not to Hildiger," John 
replied gloomily, " but to Narses." Belisarius under- 
stood what his answer meant, and he knew that he 
had made a life-long enemy. 

Thwarted as he continually was by Narses and 
John, Belisarius succeeding in capturing the strong 
fortresses of Urbinum and Urbs Vetus (Orvieto). 
But the dissensions between the generals caused the 
loss of Milan. Belisarius had sent a large body of 
troops, under Martin and an officer of Gothic birth 
named Wilihari, to the rescue of the beleaguered city, 
but the officers remained idle for months encamped 
on the south bank of the Po, and at length wrote 
to Belisarius asking for aid, as they dared not cross 
the river, being so enormously outnumbered by the 
Goths and Burgunds, and Belisarius wrote ordering 
John and Justin to march for the deliverance of 



Milan, but they refused to obey any orders but those 
of Narses. At last — early in the year 539 — he was 
constrained to humble himself to entreat Narses to 
give the necessary commands. The chamberlain con- 
sented ; but it was too late. Before the order could 
be executed Milan had fallen. 

When the city was suffering the direst extremity 
of famine, the Gothic chief called upon the garrison 
to surrender, promising that if they did so their lives 
should be spared. The Roman commander, Mun- 
dila (himself, like so many other " Roman " officers 
of the time, a Goth by birth) insisted that the be- 
siegers should pledge themselves to spare the lives of 
the citizens as well. But the Goths, according to the 
orders given to them by their king, were bent on hav- 
ing a terrible revenge upon the Milanese for their 
betrayal, and refused the demand. Then the brave 
Mundila, addressing the remnant of his thousand 
men, called upon them to prefer a glorious death to a 
dishonoured life, and to follow him in a desperate 
charge upon the enemy. But the soldiers did not 
share his heroic courage. They accepted the offered 
terms, and saved their own lives, leaving the hapless 
citizens to their fate. 

The Goths used their victory like the worst of 
savages. All the men in the city were killed (three 
hundred thousand, we are told,^ but the number 
seems incredible) ; the women were given as slaves 
to the Burgunds, and Milan was levelled with the 
ground. The surrounding cities, fearing a similar 

^ Perhaps we should read forty thousand ; the mistake would be an 
easy one in Greek numerals. 


fate, hastened to offer their submission, and without 
any further bloodshed the Goths were once more 
masters of the province of Liguria. 

The Roman generals, Martin and Wilihari, who 
had allowed Milan to perish before their eyes without 
striking a blow for its defence, returned to Rome. 
Belisarius had set out with all his army towards the 
Adriatic coast, intending to lay siege to Auximum, 
and on the journey heard the grievous news of Milan. 
In bitterness of heart he wrote to Justinian, telling 
him the whole story of what had happened, and 
doubtless asking for the punishment of those whose 
fault had caused the disaster. The emperor, how- 
ever, contented himself with ordering Narses to 
return at once to Constantinople, and formally ap- 
pointing Belisarius to the supreme command of the 
army of Italy. Belisarius seems to have thought 
Wilihari more to blame than his colleague, and we 
read that he never permitted him to see his face 

The dreary story of the remainder of the year 539 
need not here be told in detail. From May to 
December Belisarius was besieging Auximum, near 
the Adriatic, and his lieutenants were besieging 
Faesulae, close to Florence. The brave garrison of 
Auximum suffered cruel hardships, but were en- 
couraged by continual promises of immediate help 
from Ravenna. The help never came ; Witigis could 
not make up his mind to exchange the safety of his 
fortress for the risks of a conflict in the open field. 
At last, when Faesulae had fallen, and the army which 
had captured it came with their prisoners to the camp 



of Belisarius, the resolution of the famished defenders 
of Auximum broke down. They not only surren 
dered the city, but they were so hopeless of Gothic - 
freedom under a king like Witigis that they actually I 
took service in the Roman ranks. And so four 
thousand valiant soldiers passed over from the side 
of Witigis to that of the emperor. 

While these two sieges were going on, King Theude- 
bert of the Franks, with a hundred thousand men, 
crossed the Alps into North Italy. The Goths, thinking 
he came to help them, made no preparations for de- 
fence, and fled in great confusion when their supposed 
friends suddenly made a fierce attack on their camp. 
Upon this the Romans naturally expected that the 
Franks would take 't/ieir side, but they fell into the 
same trap as their enemies had done. King Theude- 
bert's object was merely to enrich himself by robbery. 
After impartially plundering both camps and ravag- 
ing the country, he went back to his kingdom laden 
with booty ; but he had lost so many men by disease 
that he had little reason to congratulate himself on 
the results of his treacherous conduct. 

What miseries the Italian country people suffered 
during this terrible year will never be fully known. 
Fifty thousand peasants died of famine in the pro- 
vince of Picenum alone. The historian Procopius 
describes in vivid language the ghastly scenes of 
which he was an eye-witness. The victims of hunger, 
he tells us, first grew deadly pale, then livid, and 
finally black, " like the charred remains of torches." 
Their eyes had the wild glare of insanity. It was 
rumoured that some had yielded to the temptation 



to save their own lives by feeding on human flesh. 
Thousands were seen lying dead on the ground, their 
hands still clutching the grass which they had been 
trying to pull up for food. The bodies lay unburied, 
but the birds disdained to touch them, for there was 
no flesh left upon the bones. 

It is a horrible picture ; but it helps us to under- 
stand in some degree what is really meant by the 
" famines " that are so often mentioned in passing as 
incidents in the wars of the centuries to which our 
story relates. 




Belisarius was now master of the whole of Italy, 
except Ravenna itself and the northern provinces 
which form what is now called Lombardy. As soon 
as the siege of Auximum was ended, he marched 
with all his army to blockade the fortress capital in 
which King Witigis had taken refuge. 

That Ravenna would fall sooner or later was 
certain. No doubt the great army of Goths who 
still remained within the walls might, if they had 
had an efficient general, have sallied forth and over- 
whelmed the besiegers with their superior numbers. 
But with Witigis for their commander nothing of the 
sort was to be feared ; and Belisarius had captured 
the supplies of corn which were being brought to the 
city down the Po, while the Roman war-ships in the 
Adriatic prevented any provisions from being im- 
ported by sea. And just at this time the storehouses 
of corn in Ravenna were consumed by fire, through 
the treachery, it was said, of Queen Mataswintha. 
The king's nephew, Uraias, the captor of Milan, had 
set out with four thousand men to attack the be- 
siegers, but nearly all his soldiers deserted to the 


enemy, and he was obliged to go back again into 
Liguria, and to leave Ravenna to its fate. 

It seemed, therefore, that the game was nearly 
ended. But the calculations of Belisarius were dis- 
turbed by the arrival of ambassadors from Justinian, 
empowered to offer the Goths liberal terms of peace. 
Witigis was to remain king of the country north of 
the Po, and to retain half the royal treasure. The 
Goths, as well they might be, were delighted with 
the proposal, but they suspected that it might be 
only a trap, and, therefore, they refused to agree to 
it unless Belisarius would assure them in writing that 
he considered himself bound by the treaty. Beli- 
sarius, however, had set his heart on leading Witigis, 
as he had before led thq Vandal king, a prisoner to 
Constantinople, and he was greatly mortified that he 
was to be robbed of his prize at the very moment 
when it was ready to fall into his hands. If the 
emperor chose to make peace on the proposed con- 
ditions, he could not prevent him from doing so, but 
at least he would be no party to the transaction. 
However, as an obstinate resistance on his part might 
seem disloyal to his master, he called a council of his 
officers, and asked their opinion. They unanimously 
declared their conviction that there was no use in 
carrying on the war further, and that it was best to 
make peace on the emperor's terms. Belisarius made 
them all sign a document expressing this conclusion, 
so that it might afterwards be seen that the responsi- 
bility for what he considered a foolish act did not 
rest with himself. 

But in the meantime the Goths had been holding 


a council, and had come to a very strange decision. 
If Belisarius would have signed the treaty they could 
have trusted him, but in the honesty of Justinian 
they had no faith; and they feared that if Ravenna 
were surrendered the ernperor would order them to 
be carried away to Constantinople or to Asia Minor. 
They therefore determined to offer the kingdom of 
Italy to Belisarius himself The messengers who 
conveyed this proposal to the imperial general took 
with them a letter from Witigis, who was now tired 
of a kingship which he was unable to make a reality, 
and who entreated his conqueror to yield to the 
desire of the Goths. 

Perhaps Belisarius may have entertained some 
thoughts of availing himself of the opportunity of 
making himself sovereign of the West. But his oath 
of allegiance to Justinian stood in the way, and the 
enterprise would besides have been full of perils. 
However, he saw that to pretend to agree to the 
Gothic proposal would be a means of obtaining the 
surrender of Ravenna. He therefore called a council 
of his officers, together with the emperor's ambassa- 
dors, and informed them that he had a plan by which 
he was confident of being able to save the whole of 
Italy for the empire, and to carry off Witigis and 
the Gothic nobles, with all their treasure, to Con- 
stantinople. " Supposing," he said, " that this plan 
should be successful, will you consider me justified in 
setting aside the emperor's instructions ? " They all 
thought that such an achievement would be worthy 
of the highest praise. Belisarius then sent word to 
the Goths that he accepted their offer ; and ambas- 


sadors were sent from Ravenna to the Roman camp 
with the request that he would swear that the garrison 
and citizens should suffer no injury, and that he 
would reign impartially over the Goths and the 

Belisarius readily took the required oath, so far as 
it related to Ravenna, but as to his assumption of the 
kingship he said that he must first confer personally 
with Witigis and the nobles. The ambassadors made 
no difficulty in that point, for they thought it impos- 
sible that he could mean to draw back from an 
undertaking so gratifying to his own ambition. 

So Belisarius, accompanied by the Gothic envoys, 
entered Ravenna with his army ; and at the same 
time the Roman fleet, laden with provisions, landed 
at the port of Classis, and food was distributed to the 
hungry people. The Romans were heartily welcomed 
by the inhabitants of the city ; but when the Gothic 
women saw the small-statured, mean-looking men 
(Huns, perhaps, for the most part) who followed 
Belisarius, they assailed their countrymen with shouts 
of derision, and even spat in their faces, for allowing 
themselves to be beaten by such foes. Belisarius 
faithfully kept his promise to allow no plundering of 
private property, but he took possession of the trea- 
sure stored up in the palace, and Witigis and some of 
his chief nobles were kept in honourable captivity until 
they could be conveyed to Constantinople. The 
Goths whose homes were south of the Po were per- 
mitted to return to their farms. 

For some time Belisarius allowed it to be believed 
that he was going to accept the purple. By and by. 


however, he received from the emperor the command 
to return at once to Constantinople. The motive for 
this order was partly that Justinian had heard that 
the conduct of his general looked as if he were dally- 
ing with the thought of usurping the crown of Italy, 
and partly that the king of Persia had declared his 
intention of invading the empire. The Goths heard 
that Belisarius had been recalled, but took it for 
granted that he would disregard the summons. 
When, however, they found that he was actually 
making preparations for departure, they perceived 
that they had been imposed upon. Their attention 
then turned to the two Gothic generals who still held 
out in the north — Uraias the nephew of Witigis, and 
Hildibad. First, a deputation of Gothic nobles waited 
on Uraias at Pavia urging him to accept the crown. 
He refused the offer, saying that his regard for his 
uncle forbad him to occupy the throne during his 
uncle's lifetime, and, besides, that he thought that his 
relationship to one who had been so unfortunate 
a commander would prevent him from winning the 
confidence of the army. He recommended them, 
however, to choose Hildibad, who was then in com- 
mand at Verona, and who was a nephew of Theudis, 
king of the Visigoths. 

Hildibad accordingly was sent for to Pavia, and was 
there invested with the purple robe and hailed as 
king. But before many days had passed away he 
began to doubt whether the Goths had done wisely in 
choosing him as king, and whether he himself had 
been wise in accepting their choice. Calling together 
a great assembly of the people, he urged them to 


make one last effort to persuade Belisarius to assume 
the diadem. 

Accordingly, ambassadors were sent to Ravenna to 
try to induce Belisarius to change his mind. They 
reproached him in bitter, but not undeserved, terms 
with his breach of faith : they taunted him with want 
of spirit in "choosing to be a slave when he might 
be a king ; " but it was all to no purpose. He replied 
that he was resolved never to assume the title of king 
or emperor so long as Justinian lived. 

So Hildibad was confirmed in his new dignity, and 
Belisarius set out to present himself, with his Gothic 
prisoners and the spoils of the palace of Ravenna, 
before his imperial master. It was in June, 540, that 
he arrived at Constantinople — ^just after the empire 
had suffered a humiliating blow in the capture of 
Antioch by the Persian king. All the more welcome 
to Justinian and his subjects were the evidences of the 
Italian victories ; but his jealousy of Belisarius was 
not set at rest, and he made no movement to offer the 
conqueror the honours of a Roman triumph. The 
enthusiasm of the people, however, made amends for 
the emperor's neglect. Whenever Belisarius appeared 
in public the streets were thronged with citizens eager 
to gaze upon their favourite hero, and to testify their 
admiration of him by shouts of applause. 

Belisarius was now only thirty-five years of age, but 
he had reached the highest point of his fame. His 
secretary, Procopius, has chosen this moment to intro- 
duce his description of the great general's person and 
character. He tells us that Belisarius was tall and of 
well-proportioned frame, and in countenance hand- 


some beyond all men. He was " as perfectly acces 
sible and as unassuming in manner as if he had been 
some very poor and undistinguished man." His 
soldiers loved him for his sympathy in all their 
troubles, and his unequalled generosity in rewarding 
their deeds of bravery. And yet his discipline was 
very rigorous ; he never tolerated any outrages upon 
the country people, nor any pillage or wanton destruc- 
tion of crops, and the provisions required by his army 
were always paid for at liberal prices. His private 
life was stainlessly pure, and no one ever saw him 
excited by wine. His presence of mind was wonder- 
ful ; no emergency ever took him by surprise. In 
danger he was cheerful and self-possessed : he was the 
bravest of the brave, yet he never neglected any need- 
ful precaution. As he was nev^er cast down by 
adversity, so he was never inflated by success, nor 
tempted to relax even for a moment the stern sim- 
plicity of his manner of life. 

Such is the portrait which is drawn of this great man 
by one who had lived in close intimacy with him. It 
is a picture which leaves out all the shadows, and the 
character of Belisarius was not without grave faults. 
But in what Procopius says of his excellencies there 
seems to be very little exaggeration. Pity that so 
noble a man should have laboured for so unworthy an 
end as that of crushing a heroic nation out of exis- 
tence, and subjecting Italy to the rapacious mis- 
government of the Eastern Empire. 

But though the task was unworthy of Belisarius, the 
success which he had thus far attained is a proof of 
his wonderful genius. If he had been allowed to re- 





turn to Italy at once, a few more months would prob- 
ably have seen the end of the struggle. Justinian, 
however, thought that the work which had been 
carried so far might safely be left to inferior hands to 
finish. It was a great mistake, the result of which, 
as we shall see, was that the struggle lasted on for 
twelve more years. The Goths were conquered at 
last, but at an immense cost of treasure and of human 
lives that might all have been spared had Justinian 
been wise in time. 

Belisarius's two royal prisoners had no reason to 
complain of their treatment. KingWitigis was made 
a "Patrician ;" he lived in inglorious luxury at Con- 
stantinople for two more years, and then died, un- 
lamented by his young widow — still only about 
twenty-two — who immediately became the wife of 
the emperor's nephew Germanus. 




The emperor thought that the conquest of Italy was 
now as good as complete, and he at once proceeded 
to turn his new acquisition to practical account. Jus- 
tinian's notion of government was the extortion of 
money, to be spent in keeping up the splendour of his 
court, and in building magnificent churches, palaces, 
and fortresses all over the empire. Although he 
thought himself a great lover of justice, and took 
immense pains in reducing the Roman laws to a 
scientific system, he did very little to ensure the laws 
being justly administered in his dominions. Whether 
his subjects were prosperous or not was a secondary 
matter ; the one great thing was that they should 
pay their taxes regularly. His revenue officers 
were allowed to oppress the people as they liked, and 
to enrich themselves with ill-gotten gains, if only they 
did not fail to send plenty of money to Constantinople. 
His policy was as shortsighted and foolish as it was 
wicked ; a policy of " killing the goose that laid 
the golden eggs." As Theoderic had so well seen, 
the only lasting way to enrich the treasury of the 
state is to labour for the prosperity of the subjects. 
Justinian can hardly have been wholly blind to this 


truth, but his thqught seems to have been that ex- 
pressed in the famous words, " After me the deluge." 
While he lived the empire was outwardly brilliant and 
glorious : it was his successors that had to suffer the 
penalty which his recklessness had deserved. 

The first thing that Justinian did after Belisarius's 
return was to send to Ravenna the most energetic and 
unscrupulous of his revenue officers, a certain Alex- 
ander, whom the people at Constantinople had spite- 
fully nicknamed " Scissors," because, they said, he 
could clip a gold coin and leave it as round as it was 
before. This man seems to have been entrusted with 
almost absolute authority over the government of 
Italy, and he used his power to oppress all classes 
alike — not only the native Italians and the Goths who 
had submitted to the empire, but even the soldiers, 
whom he cheated out of their pay and punished by 
heavy fines for trifling or imaginary offences. 

It is easy to guess what happened. The Goths 
who had accepted Roman rule were driven to revolt, 
and betook themselves to the camp of their native 
king. The Roman soldiers were unwilling to fight, 
and many of them deserted to the enemy. In a few 
months the little band under Hildibad had become a 
powerful army. 

Justinian had appointed no commander-in-chief in 
the place of Belisarius ; the generals in Italy were all 
equal in authority. They were too jealous of one 
another, and too intent on enriching themselves by 
the plunder of the people, to attempt a'ny united 
movement against the Goths. One of them, how- 
ever, who happened to be in Venetia with a large 


portion of the army, ventured to make an attack on 
Hildibad near Treviso, but was defeated and lost 
nearly all his men. 

The Goths were greatly elated by this victory, and 
for a time they were full of enthusiastic devotion to 
their king. But Hildibad forfeited the affection of 
his people by causing the assassination of Uraias, the 
very man to whom he owed his kingdom. He did 
not deny the deed, but pretended that he had detected 
Uraias in a plot to betray the nation to the Romans. 
Every one knew, however, that the real motive of the 
crime was that Hildibad's queen had been insulted by 
the wife of Uraias. The Goths did not attempt to 
depose Hildibad, because they felt that his bravery 
and ability made him indispensable ; but their loyalty 
to him had received a fatal shock, and they no longer 
cared to obey him. One day, as the king reclined at 
the dinner-table, in the presence of all his great 
nobles, a Gepid soldier, who had a private wrong to 
avenge, came behind him and smote off his head with 
his broadsword. Bitterly as the Goths had con- 
demned Hildibad's shameful deed, they knew his 
value as a leader, and his death caused them for a 
while to lose all heart and hope. 

During this time of discouragement, the Rugians, 
one of the smaller Gothic peoples, who had joined 
themselves to the Ostrogoths without mixing with 
them, took advantage of the opportunity to set up 
one of their own nobles, named Eraric, as " King of 
the Goths'." The Ostrogoths did not like this, but 
they were so much in need of a leader that they 
were content to obey even the Rugian, if only he had 


shown himself a capable man. But Eraric simply 
remained inactive ; and it was found out afterwards 
that he had been trying to make a bargain with 
Justinian for the betrayal of Italy. 

The Gothic garrison of Treviso was commanded by 
a nephew of Hildibad, a young man of about twenty- 
five, whose name was Totila. After Eraric had been 
on the throne three or four months, without making 
any movement against the Romans, the Goths be- 
came impatient, and sent a deputation to offer the 
crown to Totila. He informed the delegates (so, at 
least, we are told) that he had entered into an agree- 
ment with the imperial general Constantian, to sur- 
render the city and the army on a certain day. "But," 
he added, " if Eraric is put to death before the date 
fixed for the surrender, I am willing to accept the 
kingdom." Whether this story be true or not, it is 
certain that Eraric was soon afterwards assassinated, 
and Totila became king. 

If Totila did indeed obtain his throne by breaking 
his pledged word and by instigating an assassination, 
the beginning of his reign contrasts strangely with 
his after history. His character was marked by a 
chivalrous sense of honour, and a magnanimity towards 
his enemies which, in that age, were rare indeed. 
One or two of his recorded actions, indeed, seem un- 
worthy of the man's noble nature ; but we must 
remember that his life has been written by no friend 
or countryman, but by a foreigner and an enemy, who 
nevertheless could not refrain from expressing with 
emphasis the admiration he felt for the uprightness 
and the humanity of this " barbarian." 


It should be mentioned here that Totila seems on 
becoming king to have changed his name to Baduila. 
Or possibly the latter may have been his real name, 
and Totila only a nickname. At any rate he was 
known to his countryman by both names, though 
Baduila is the only one which appears on his coins. 
However, in history he is always called Totila ; the 
other name would have been unknown to us but for 
the coins and a solitary mention in Jordanes.^ 

When Justinian heard how the imperial cause in 
Italy was being ruined through the inaction of the 
generals, he wrote to them in such severe terms that 
they felt something must be done. So they all 
gathered together (eleven there seem to have been) 
at Ravenna, and devised plans for making a com- 
bined movement against the Goths. They deter- 
mined to begin with an attack on Verona ; but their 
cowardice and blundering caused the scheme to fail, 
and they marched southwards in all haste as far as 
Faventia. Here they were overtaken by Totila, and 
a battle took place. Although the Goths had only 
five thousand men, while the Romans had twelve 
thousand, Totila was victorious ; the imperial army 
was completely dispersed, with a great loss both 
in slain and in prisoners. Another battle in the 
valley of Mucella (Mugello) had a similar end- 
ing, and Totila led his army into the south, 
capturing one city after another, and making the 
farmers pay into his treasury both the rents due 
to their landlords and the taxes that were due to the 

* Perhaps the truth may be that his original name was Totabadws^ 
and that Totila and Baduila are diminutives of this (see Appendix) . 


emperor. In other respects, however, he treated the 
people with so much kindness that he won a great 
deal of goodwill from those who had suffered from 
the lawless behaviour of the Roman armies. At last, 
in the summer of 542, he encamped before Naples, 
which a certain Conon was holding for the emperor, 
with a garrison of one thousand men. 

The emperor's army in Italy was in a state of 
general mutiny on account of pay being in arrear, so 
that the generals could hardly have done anything 
for the relief of Naples even if they had wished. But 
apparently they were only too glad of the excuse for 
remaining inactive in the fortified cities. Justinian, 
however, sent a considerable land and sea force from 
Constantinople, but its commanders were no match 
for the genius of Totila. The fleet was defeated, and 
the most important of the leaders of the expedition, 
Demetrius, was paraded in front of the walls with a 
halter round his neck, and made to harangue the 
garrison and the citizens, in order to persuade them 
to surrender. The Gothic king himself also made a 
speech to the besieged, promising that if they would 
yield neither soldier nor citizen should be any the 
worse for their submission. 

The temptation was strong, for the defenders were 
hard pressed by famine and disease ; but the garrison 
was unwilling to seem false to their sovereign, and 
begged that thirty days' truce might be allowed them. 
If no help came from the emperor within that time, 
they promised to surrender. Totila astonished the 
messengers by his reply. " By all means," he said ; 
" I grant you t/tree months' delay, if you choose to 


take it." And he undertook to make no attempt to 
storm the 'city during that time. He knew that the 
defenders would find it hard to struggle with the 
famine for even one month longer. Totila's calm 
confidence made them feel that the hope of succour 
was vain indeed ; and a few days afterwards the gates 
were opened. 

As soon as Totila entered the city, he saw from the 
appearance of the inhabitants that they had suffered 
terribly from famine. He had had, like Procopius, 
the opportunity of observing the effects of hunger on 
the human frame, and he knew that if those who were 
enfeebled by long privation were at once freely sup- 
plied with food they were likely to be killed by plenty. 
With a thoughtful kindness which, as Procopius says, 
" could neither have been expected from an enemy 
nor from a barbarian," he ordered that every person 
in the city should receive a daily ration of food, at 
first very small, but gradually increased until the 
danger had ceased to exist. Then, and not before, 
he allowed the city gates to be thrown open, and 
proclaimed that the inhabitants were free to go or 
to remain as they chose. 

Conon and most of his soldiers were placed on 
board ships, and informed that they were at liberty to 
sail to any port they preferred. They were ashamed 
to go to Constantinople, and tried to make for Rome. 
The wind, however, was contrary, and they were 
obliged to remain at Naples. Naturally they felt 
very uneasy, for they thought that after Totila had 
given them one fair chance of escape, he would now 
consider himself entitled to treat them as prisoners. 


But the " barbarian's " generosity again surpassed 
expectation. Sending for Conon, he assured him 
that he and his companions might consider them- 
selves as among friends ; that until it was possible 
for them to sail the Gothic markets were open to 
them, and that he would do everything he could to 
ensure their comfort. As, however, the wind con- 
tinued unfavourable, Totila at length recommended 
them to make the journey by land, and actually pro- 
vided them with beasts of burden, money for travel- 
ling expenses, and a Gothic escort. He did all this, 
though he knew that Conon and his men were going 
to increase the garrison of the city to which it was 
his intention shortly to lay siege. Certainly he had 
given his kingly word that the soldiers should be 
allowed to march away " whither they pleased ; " but 
it is seldom that any conqueror has observed a capitu- 
lation in this splendid fashion, either before or since. 
Even more rigorously than Belisarius himself, 
Totila repressed all acts of outrage on the part of 
his army. No matter who was the offender, the 
penalty was death. One officer of high rank, and 
very popular among his comrades, had committed a 
crime of this kind, and had been placed under arrest. 
The chiefs of the army implored Totila to spare the 
man's life. The king listened courteously and calmly 
to what they had to say, and then, in grave and 
earnest tones he expressed his conviction that only so 
long as the Goths kept themselves pure from injustice 
could they expect the Divine blessing to rest on their 
cause. He reminded them how brilliant had been 
the fortunes of the nation under the righteous rule of 


Theoderic ; how, under Theodahad and his succes- 
sors, the Goths, forsaking the poHcy of justice and 
humanity to which they owed their greatness, had 
brought themselves to the lowest point of humilia- 
tion ; and how since they had again begun to act in 
a nobler spirit their prosperity had returned. Would 
they, he asked, with this experience before them, 
insist on making the nation an accomplice in this 
man's guilt ? The Gothic chiefs were unable to resist 
this reasoning, and the criminal underwent his doom. 

" While Totila was behaving in this manner, the 
Roman generals and their soldiers were plundering 
the property of those who were subject to their sway, 
and indulging without restraint in every kind of inso- 
lence and excess." We are quoting Procopius, who 
points out with indignant eloquence the contrast be- 
tween the " civilized " Romans and their " barbarian " 
foe. In Rome itself the citizens were bitterly regret- 
ting their change of masters. Totila knew of the 
existence of this feeling, and resolved to work upon 
it. First he sent a letter to the senate, charging them, 
if they repented of the crime and folly of their treason 
against the Goths, to earn their pardon by a voluntary 
surrender of the city. It is strange that the impe- 
rialist commander should have allowed such a letter 
to be delivered at all ; however, he would not permit 
the senate to return any answer. 

A few days passed, and one morning it was found 
that placards, signed with Totila's name, had been 
nailed up during the night in all the most frequented 
parts of the city. They announced that the Goths 
would shortly march to the capture of Rome, and 



contained a solemn declaration that no harm should 
be done to the citizens. The officers of the imperial 
army tried in vain to find out who had put up these 
placards, but it was suspected that it must have been 
done by the Arian clergy, who were therefore banished 
from the city. 

Soon afterwards the emperor Justinian received 
a letter, signed by all his generals in Italy, expressing 
their opinion that the imperial cause in that country 
was hopeless, and that, the attempt to oppose the 
victorious progress of the Goths had better be aban- 
doned. Very unwillingly the emperor had to yield 
to the conviction that his Italian dominions could be 
preserved only by the help of the great general who, 
four years before, had all but crushed the Gothic 
monarchy, and whose premature recall was now 
proved to have been a fatal mistake. And so Beli- 
sarius received orders to go to Italy to retrieve the 
disasters which had befallen the imperial arms. 





It was not merely the old suspicion which made 
Justinian unwiUing to send Belisarius to Italy. The 
great general had recently fallen into disgrace with 
his imperial master. In the year 542, Justinian 
had been smitten with plague, and it was said that 
while he was on what was supposed to be his death- 
bed Belisarius had formed a plot for the purpose of 
succeeding him on the throne, to the exclusion of the 
Empress Theodora. The emperor, however, recov- 
ered, and as he believed the accusations against 
Belisarius, he deprived him of all his honours and of 
a large part of his property. He also took away 
from him his famous " household " of soldiers, and 
sent them away on foreign service. Afterwards 
Justinian had professed to forgive Belisarius, and had 
conferred on him the office of " Count of the Imperial 
Stable." But he still treated him with haughty cold- 
ness, and even in making him the offer of the Italian 
command he seems not to have been able to conceal 
the distrust which he felt. Belisarius, however, was 
tired of inaction, and eager to prove his loyalty, 
and he accepted the appointment with gladness. He 


even promised, it is said, that he would himself 
supply all the money which the expedition might 
cost. Perhaps it was this promise that overcame the 
avaricious emperor's reluctance to avail himself of 
the services of the general whom he distrusted. 

It was in May, 544, that Belisarius went to take the 
command of the Italian armies. He remained five 
years in Italy, and when he at length returned it 
was with the consciousness of failure : the Gothic 
power was still unbroken. 

How was it that the great general, who a few years 
before had so brilliantly, with a mere handful of men, 
wrested Italy from the grasp of the gigantic host of 
Witigis, was no longer able to contend against a foe 
whose army was inferior in numbers to his own ^ 
The reasons, no doubt, were many. It is possible 
that the troubles through which he had passed had in 
some degree broken his spirit and dulled his brain. 
Something, too, may be set down to the fact that his 
adversary now was a resolute and skilful youth, and 
not a feeble and purposeless old man. But there 
were other causes which were miore important still. 
The Roman soldiers in Italy were thoroughly de- 
moralized by the shameful oppression which they 
had undergone at the hands of Justinian's governors, 
and by the spectacle of the sloth and rapacity of their 
own commanders. Great numbers of them had de- 
serted to Totila, in whose service they might at least 
be sure of their pay. Those who remained were 
rather a mob than an army ; they professed to be on 
the emperor's side, because of the opportunity that 
was allowed them for pillaging and insulting the 



Italian country people, but in the field they were 
worse than useless. The-n, too, Belisarius had asso- 
ciated with him other commanders with authority 
nearly equal to his own ; and they were little inclined 
to submit to a chief whom they knew to be under 
the emperor's frown. His plans were thwarted con- 
tinually, and he was sometimes obliged to defer to 
the opinions of his subordinates against his own wiser 

Even under these miserable circumstances Beli- 
sarius managed to gain some advantages over the 
enemy, and to delay for a long time Totila's march 
to Rome. But when a year had passed he felt that 
the Goths would never be conquered with such means 
as he had. He therefore wrote an urgent letter to 
the emperor, begging him to send to Italy an army 
worthy of the name, and money for the heavy arrears 
of pay that were due to the barbarian troops. To 
show to Justinian emphatically how hopeless he con- 
sidered the struggle to be without further resources, 
he left Italy altogether, and waited at Durazzo, on 
the other side of the Adriatic, until the soldiers should 
arrive from Constantinople. 

While Belisarius was waiting, Rome was once more 
undergoing the miseries of a close blockade. The 
commander of the emperor's garrison was Bessa, the 
Thracian Goth, a man who in the past had shown 
himself a brave soldier, but whose hard - hearted 
avarice now added to the wretchedness of the unfor- 
tunate Romans. The hardships which the citizens 
had to endure were a matter of satisfaction to him, 
for they enabled him to enrich himself by selling, at 


outrageous prices, the provisions of which he had 
collected an ample store. 

When the senators found that there was little 
prospect of speedy relief, they determined to try 
whether they could induce Totila to agree to favour- 
able terms of surrender. They chose as their am- 
bassador a deacon named Pelagius, who had gained 
great esteem among the people by the generosity 
with which he had supplied the necessities of the 
poor during the siege. His instructions were to ask 
Totila for a truce of a few days, and to promise, if he 
would agree to their conditions, that at the end of 
that period the city should be given up, unless an 
imperial army arrived in the meantime for its 

Totila received Pelagius with a great appearance 
of respect and kindness, but said that before they 
entered into any discussion it must be understood 
that on three points his mind was firmly made up. 
" In the first place," said he, " you must not ask me 
to let the Sicilians go unpunished for their treachery. 
Secondly, I am resolved that the walls of Rome 
shall be destroyed. This will be far better for the 
citizens themselves, because they will then be in no 
danger of having again to suffer the calamity of a 
siege. The third point is that I will listen to no pro- 
posals for restoring to their former masters the slaves 
who have taken service in the Gothic army. I have 
pledged my word to them that they shall be free ; if 
I broke faith towards these unfortunate people, how 
could you trust in my observing any treaty I made 
with you .? Apart from these three points, however, 


I am ready to consider favourably any proposition 
you have to make." 

When he heard these words Pelagius lost his 
temper, and said fiercely that to lay down such con- 
ditions of discussion was a gross insult, and that after 
this he could only regard Totila's show of politeness 
as a downright mockery. " I came," he said, " as 
a suppliant ; but now I disdain to make any request 
of you — I will address my prayers to God, whose it is 
to humble the arrogance of the mighty." And so 
Pelagius went back to the city with his message 

Days passed away, and still no succour came. 
Men were dying of hunger in the city, while the 
soldiers were well-fed, and their officers still kept up 
their accustomed luxury. Assembling in a body, the 
citizens surrounded the house of Bessa, and by their 
uproar compelled him to come out and listen to 
their complaints. They besought him either to let 
them go out of the city, or to supply them with food, 
or, if he would do neither, to kill them and end their 
miseries. Bessa replied coolly that to find them food 
was impossible ; to kill them would be wicked, and 
to let them go would be dangerous. But he ended 
his speech by saying that he had certain information 
that Belisarius was speedily coming with a new army. 
His manner convinced them that he was speaking the 
truth, and the crowd dispersed without making any 
attempt at violence. 

The news was indeed true. After every possible 
excuse for delay had been exhausted, Justinian had 
at last despatched an army to Durazzo. As soon as 


it arrived, Belisarius embarked with the troops, and 
after a sail of five days his ships cast anchor in the 
port of Rome. 

But the famine continued to do its fearful work, 
until at last an incident happened which compelled 
Bessa to relax his cruel rule. A certain man in the 
city, worn out by the cries of his five children for 
bread which he could not give them, at last bade 
them follow him, saying that he would find them 
food. He led them through the streets till he came 
to a bridge over the Tiber, and then, wrapping his 
cloak round his head, he plunged into the river and 
was drowned before the eyes of his children and of 
the crowd. The city rang with cries of indignation 
against the Roman officers. Bessa perceived that the 
hungry populace was becoming dangerous. He gave 
permission that the citizens might go whither they 
would, and supplied them with money for their 
journey. All but a very few accepted the offer, but 
vast numbers of them died of hunger on the way, or 
fell into the hands of the enemy and were killed. 

The first concern of Belisarius was to try to get 
Rome supplied with provisions. But his plan required 
the help of Bessa ; and Bessa sullenly refused to obey 
his orders, and the well-laid scheme came to nothing. 
After this failure Belisarius prepared for an attack on 
the Gothic camp ; and here again he would have 
succeeded but for the disobedience of his officers. 
Ten miles from Rome, and half way between the 
city and the port, Totila had built a wooden bridge 
across the river, and had erected upon it two towers, 
which he manned with four hundred of his bravest 


soldiers. Belisarius, leaving his wife Antonina and 
his treasures at the port, in charge of one of his 
officers named Isaac, set out with a fleet of vessels, 
headed by two fireships, to destroy the obstacle with 
which Totila sought to prevent his approach. He 
sent word to Bessa to second his attack by a sally 
from the gates of Rome, and he strictly charged 
Isaac on no account to leave his post. 

The attack on the bridge was successful : one of 
the towers took fire, and two hundred Goths perished 
in the flames. But Bessa did not make the expected 
sortie ; and Isaac, heedless of his orders, foolishly 
made an attack on a strong body of the enemy, and 
was defeated and captured. 

The news that Isaac was a prisoner was brought 
to Belisarius in the midst of his victory. He rushed 
to the conclusion that the port must have been taken, 
and that his dearly-loved wife was in the hands of 
the enemy. " For the first time in his life," says 
Procopius, " he was struck with panic." Leaving 
unfinished the work he had so brilliantly begun, he 
hurried back to the port. His wife was safe ; but 
the anguish he had undergone, and the mortification 
at the failure of his plan, so worked upon him that he 
fell into an illness, and was for a long time helpless 
and in danger of his life. And while Belisarius lay 
on his bed of sickness, the Asinarian gate was opened 
by the treachery of four sentinels, and Rome fell once 
more into the hands of the Goths. 

It was on the evening of December 17, 546, that 
Totila and his army passed through the gate. Totila 
did not feel very sure that the four sentinels were not 


leading him into a trap, and so he caused his men to 
remain in a compact body near the gates until day- 
break. In the night the news was brought to him 
that the imperial army and its leaders had fled from 
the city, and some of his officers urged him to pursue 
them. "Let them go," he said; "what could we 
wish for more than for the enemy to run away ? " 

When morning came it was plain that the report 
was true. The city was deserted, except for a few 
soldiers who had taken refuge in the churches, and 
about five hundred of the citizens. Totila's first act 
was to repair to the church of St. Peter to give 
thanks to God for his victory. While he was thus 
engaged, the deacon Pelagius brought him word that 
the Goths were slaughtering the unresisting Romans 
in the streets, and holding the book of the Gospels in 
his hand, he implored him to remember the Christian 
law of mercy. '" So, after all, Pelagius," said Totila, 
with a smile, " you are coming to me as a suppliant." 
" Yes," was the deacon's answer, " because God has 
made me your slave. I beseech you, O our master, 
to spare the lives of your slaves." Totila at once 
sent out strict orders that there was to be no more 
violence, but he permitted his soldiers to plunder the 
city. A great quantity of spoil was taken, especially 
in the palace occupied by Bessa, who in his hasty 
flight had had to leave behind him all his ill-gotten 

Amongst the few once wealthy Romans who re- 
mained in the city, and who, it is said, were actually 
reduced to beg their bread from their conquerors, was 
Rusticiana, the widow of Boethius. Some of the 



Goths demanded that she should be put to death, 
because she had given money to the Roman officers 
to induce them to destroy the statues of Theoderic. 
But Totila insisted that the aged lady should be 
treated with all respect. 

On the following day Totila harangued his soldiers 
on his favourite theme — the importance of justice and 
mercy, as their only hope of obtaining the blessing of 
God on their cause. Soon afterwards he sent Pela- 
gius to Constantinople with other envoys to ask 
Justinian to agree to terms of peace ; but the only 
answer the emperor would give was that Belisarius 
had full powers to carry on or to end the war as 
seemed to him best, and that the Goths must treat 
with him. But we do not find that Totila attempted 
to open negotiations with Belisarius ; probably he 
knew too well the iron resolution of his great anta- 
gonist to entertain any hope of success. 

The failure of the mission to Justinian was a great 
disappointment to Totila ; and just about the same 
time he learned that an expedition which he had sent 
into the south of Italy had been defeated with great 
slaughter. Under the exasperation produced by these 
events, he determined to take his revenge on Rome 
— to burn down its magnificent buildings, and to 
" turn the city into a sheep-pasture." Perhaps he 
would really have disgraced his glorious career by 
this barbarous deed ; but when Belisarius heard of 
his intention, he sent a letter to the Gothic king, 
asking him this pointed question : " Do you choose 
to appear in history branded as the destroyer of the 
noblest city in the world, or honoured as its pre- 


server ? " The messengers who bore the letter re- 
ported that Totila read it over many times, as if he 
was learning it by heart. After deep consideration, 
he returned to Belisarius the assurance that Rome 
should be spared. The incident is honourable alike 
to each of the two men. 

Now that the long siege was over, Totila was able 
to turn his attention to the other parts of his king- 
dom, which had been suffering the ravages of the 
imperial armies. He came to the strange resolve of 
abandoning Rome altogether, destroying a large part 
of the walls so that it could no longer be available to 
the enemy as a fortress ; he caused the senators to 
accompany him on his march, and sent the scanty 
remnants of the citizens, with their wives and chil- 
dren, away into Campania. Many strange things 
have happened in the history of Rome, but surely 
one of the strangest of all is that the vast city, with 
all its noble buildings still uninjured, should have 
remained for many weeks without any inhabitants. 

At first Totila left behind him the greater part of 
his army to keep a check on the movements of 
Belisarius, while he led the remainder into the south 
of Italy. But before long, for some reason not quite 
clear, he found it necessary to march with all his 
available force towards Ravenna, and the neighbour- 
hood of Rome was left unguarded. 

And now a rather amusing incident took place. 
Belisarius hurried up from the port, and meeting with 
no resistance, took possession of Rome. Of course 
there was no time to rebuild the fortification properly, 
but by setting men to work day and night, he 



managed within three weeks to erect a rough wall 
in the places where Totila had destroyed the original 
defences. The inhabitants flocked back to the city, 
which once more regained something like its accus- 
tomed aspect. 

When Totila heard what had happened he marched 
hastily with all his army to Rome. When he 
arrived Belisan'us had not yet been able to put new 
gates in the place of those that had been destroyed ; 
but the city was defended with so much spirit that 
after three furious attempts to take it by storm the 


Goths were compelled to abandon the undertaking. 
Hitherto, as Procopius says, the Goths had almost 
worshipped their young king as a god ; but now they 
angrily reproached him for not having either de- 
stroyed Rome or else occupied it himself They did 
not rise in rebellion against Totila : one of their 
national virtues was that of faithfulness to their 
chosen leaders, even when unsuccessful. But their 
trust in his wisdom and fortune were shaken, and 


they fought no longer with their old enthusiasm and 

Belisarius completed the fortifications of the city, 
and sent the keys of the new gates to Justinian as an 
evidence of his success. But although the re-occupa- 
tion of Rome was a clever exploit, it was more showy 
than useful, and did not help to bring the end of the 
war any nearer. After several months more of un- 
profitable skirmishing, Belisarius felt that the Goths 
were not to be conquered by a general who had no 
means of commanding the obedience of his subordi- 
nates. Weary of the hopeless struggle, he allowed 
his wife to go to Constantinople to solicit his recall. 
Justinian granted the request, and early in the year 
549 Belisarius quitted Italy to return to it no more. 

His after history does not concern us here, but we 
may briefly say that he lived sixteen years longer, 
during which he performed one exploit worthy of his 
earlier fame, in saving Constantinople from the Huns. 
Near the end of his life he fell into disgrace once 
more on account of a suspicion of treason, but he was 
again restored to favour, and died in the enjoyment 
of all his wealth and honours. It is hardly needful 
to mention the idle tale that in old age and blindness 
Belisarius had to beg his bread from door to door. 



The departure of Belisarius was soon followed by 
the loss of Rome. Again, as on the last occasion, it 
was through treason that the city was delivered into 
the hands of the Goths. The Isaurian soldiers 
amongst the garrison were discontented on account 
of their pay being long in arrear. If we may believe 
Procopius, they had received nothing from the imperial 
treasury for several years ; though doubtless they had 
been allowed to make good the deficiency by the 
plunder of the Italian peasantry. They heard that 
their four countrymen who in the last siege had 
opened the Asinarian gate to Totila had received 
princely rewards for their betrayal, and they resolved 
to follow the example. Totila readily accepted their 
proposal, and at the time agreed upon a sudden 
sound of trumpets was heard, which caused the 
garrison to hasten to the portion of the walls skirting 
the river, expecting that a great attack was about to 
be made from that side. Meanwhile, the Gate of St. 
Paul, on the north-west, was opened by the Isaurian 
traitors, and Totila and the vanguard of his army 
marched into the city. The imperial soldiers fled in 
all directions through the other gates, but Totila had 


posted strong bodies of men to intercept their flight, 
and very few of them escaped the sword. 

There was, however, one brave officer amongst the 
besieged, Paul of CiHcia, who with his four hundred 
men took refuge in the fortress-tomb of Hadrian, and 
prepared to hold it against all attacks. But the Goths 
were wiser than to attempt an assault. They closely 
surrounded the fortress, and remained quiet, waiting 
for hunger to do its work. At length the brave four 
hundred found that they could hold out no longer, 
and resolved to sally forth in one desperate charge 
against the foe. Feeling that they were about to rush 
upon certain destruction, they embraced each other, 
and "kissed each other with the kiss of those doomed 
to death ; " and then they issued from the gate of the 
castle, expecting to perish, but determined to sell 
their lives as dearly as they could. Before, however, 
they reached the Gothic lines, they were met by a 
flag of truce, bringing the unlooked-for ofter from the 
Gothic king, that he would either send them unhurt 
to Constantinople, on condition of laying down their 
arms and giving their promise never more to fight 
against the Goths, or, if they chose, he would accept 
them as soldiers in his own army, on an equal footing 
with his own countrymen. Brave men as they were, 
life was sweet, and they hailed with joy the sudden 
deliverance. At first they asked to be sent to Con- 
stantinople ; but when they thought of the cold re- 
ception they would meet with there, and the dangers 
of the journey to unarmed men, they came to the 
conclusion that Totila was a better master to serve 
than Justinian, and so they agreed to be enrolled in 



the Gothic ranks. There were also four hundred other 
soldiers who instead of escaping from the city had 
taken refuge in the churches, and these too joined 
themselves to Totila's army. 

A few months before these events, Totila had sent 
an embassy to one of the Prankish kings, asking the 
hand of his daughter in marriage. The ambassadors 
not only brought back a refusal, but also a very in- 
sulting message. *' Tell your master," said king 
Theudebert, " that we cannot recognize as King of 
Italy a man who could not keep Rome when he had 
it, but allowed it to fall into the hands of his enemies." 
Totila was deeply stung by this taunt, and he 
resolved to prove to the world that he was not 
unworthy to be the master of Rome. He carefully 
restored all the buildings and the portions of the 
walls that had been destroyed, and sent for the 
senators who were imprisoned in Campania. The city 
assumed its old aspect, and for the last time the ancient 
public games were celebrated in the presence of a sove- 
reign who sat on the throne of the Western Caesars. 

Again the Goths were masters in Italy; the scattered 
remnants of the imperial armies showed little sign of 
being able to offer any serious resistance. Totila now 
sent an embassy to Justinian, offering to become his 
vassal, on "condition of being recognized as the ruler 
of Italy. If the emperor had consented, perhaps the 
Gothic monarchy might even yet have established 
itself, and the whole course of the history of Southern 
Europe would have been different. But Justinian 
refused to admit the ambassadors to his presence, and 
they returned without obtaining any answer. 


Totila now set out to fulfil his cherished project of 
punishing the Sicilians for their faithlessness. Two 
years were spent in the plunder of the wealthy cities 
of Sicily, in the conquest of the islands of Sardinia 
and Corsica ; and in victorious invasions of the 
emperor's domains in Greece. 

But amid all these victories, the Goths received 
tidings that filled them with dismay. Justinian, stirred 
up to action by the entreaties of Pope Vigilius, had 
prepared a new expedition which he had placed under 
the command of his nephew Germanus. One reason 
why the Goths found this news so disquieting was 
that the new commander was the husband of their 
own princess Mataswintha, who, it was reported, was 
to accompanying him to Italy. The thought of 
having to fight against a descendant of Theoderic 
was not a welcome one, and it was greatly to be 
feared that many of Totila's soldiers might be led by 
this feeling to desert their standards. Besides this, 
Germanus had proved himself a very able general, 
and if he had not the genius of Belisarius he was far 
better supported than that great commander had 
been. Justinian had, to every one's surprise, granted 
immense sums of money for the support of the army, 
and Germanus himself had contributed largely out of 
his private fortune. The high pay that was offered 
had tempted great numbers of Gepids, Herules, Lom- 
bards, and other barbarians, to enhst under Germanus, 
so that the expedition which now threatened the 
Gothic power was by far the most formidable that 
Justinian had ever sent into the field. 

But it was not fated that Germanus should be the 


conqueror of Totila. Before he had crossed the 
Adriatic, he fell sick and died, widely regretted 
throughout the empire, for he was known as a man 
of pure and noble character, and there were many 
who hoped that he would succeed Justinian, and that 
his accession would be the beginning of happier days 
for the heavily burdened people. 

Shortly after his death Mataswintha bore a son, 
who was named Germanus like his father. It has 
been supposed that there was a party among the 
Goths who desired that this young Germanus might 
some day be installed as Western C?esar, or " King of 
Goths and Italians," with the consent and under the 
protection of the court of Constantinople. However, 
he seems himself to have had no ambition of that 
kind. He lived a quiet and honoured life for fifty 
years, and then became involved in conspiracies, on 
account of which he and his only child (a daughter) 
were put to death in the year 604. And so the line 
of the great Theoderic came to an end. 

The question which Justinian had now to consider 
was, who should be appointed commander of the 
Italian army in his nephew's place. It was above all 
things necessary that the new leader should be one 
whose authority all the other officers would obey 
without dispute. To raise one of the generals to the 
supreme command would have been to provoke again 
the jealousies and the disobedience which had been 
fatal to the enterprise of Belisarius. Justinian solved 
the difficulty by offering the headship of the army to 
the highest official of his court, the chamberlain 
Narses, the same whose meddling in the Italian war 


twelve years before, and its unfortunate results, we 
have already described. He was now seventy-five 
years of age, and feeble in body ; but that he was 
still vigorous in mind was proved by the event. For 
it was he who achieved the task which Belisarius, 
in the prime of his manhood, had failed to accomplish 
— the ruin of the Gothic nation, and the establish- 
ment of the empire in Italy. 

When Justinian proposed to Narses that he should 
assume the command in Italy, he refused to do so 
except on one condition. He must have unlimited 
supplies of money, so that he might raise an army 
absolutely overwhelming in numbers — even the army 
collected under Germanus seemed to him insufficient 
— and that when he arrived in Italy he might reconcile 
the mutinous soldiers and win back the deserters by 
giving them their full arrears of pay. The emperor 
knew his aged servant's faithfulness and his wisdom, 
and he had learned by bitter experience that too 
much parsimony was a great mistake. The request 
of Narses was granted, and before long he had arrived 
at the head of the Adriatic with such an army as had 
never before been collected in the name of Justinian. 
The soldiers came from every quarter of the eastern 
empire, and from many barbarous peoples beyond its 
bounds. Even distant Persia was represented by a 
large body of deserters, who served under a grandson 
of the Persian king. 

What Narses at first intended to do was to enter 
Italy from the north, and march southward along the 
middle of the peninsula. But here he met with un- 
expected difficulties. Totila had sent the bulk of his 


army to Verona, commanded by a general named 
Teia, who had taken vigorous means to render the 
invasion impossible by destroying the roads, and 
making ditches and embankments. Besides this, the 
Franks were occupying Venetia with a strong force, 
and they refused to allow the passage of the emperor's 
army, because — that was the reason they gave — their 
enemies the Lombards were serving in it. It was 
plain that if Narses persisted in his original plan he 
would have to fight not only with the Goths, but with 
the powerful army of the Franks. 

But what else was he to do ? He had not ships 
enough to transport his army by sea ; and it seemed 
impossible to march along the coast, because there 
were twelve broad rivers to be crossed. A council or 
war was called, at which one of the generals, John the 
grandson of Vitalian, suggested a clever plan that 
solved the difficulty. The army was to travel on foot 
close to the sea-shore, and the ships and boats were to 
sail alongside of it, so that when there was a river to 
be crossed a bridge of boats could be made for the 
soldiers to pass over. 

This ingenious contrivance was adopted, and the 
army arrived at Ravenna without meeting with any 
resistance. Here they rested for nine days. During 
this period of repose, Narses received a letter from the 
commander of the Gothic garrison at Ariminum, named 
Usdrila [Austrila ?], sneeringly asking whether the 
Romans meant to hide themselves behind stone walls, 
and challenging them to come out and fight like men. 
Narses laughed heartily at this foolish letter, and 
when his men were sufficiently rested he set out on 


his march to Ariminum. At the bridge over the river 
Marecchia there was a skirmish, in which the boast- 
ful Usdrila was killed, and his head carried into the 
Roman camp. Narses did not pause to attempt the 
capture of Ariminum, but hastened along the Flami- 
nian Way, till he came near to the little town of Taginae 
(Tadino). Here Totila, who had been joined by the 
army of Tela, had pitched his camp. 

Narses now sent some of his officers to the Gothic 
king, urging him to surrender, and not to risk a battle 
against overwhelming numbers. Totila would not 
hear of submission, and the envoys then requested him 
to fix a day for the battle. " This day week," he replied. 
But Narses was not to be deceived by such a simple 
trick as this, and when on the very next day the Goths 
came in force to attack the Roman camp they found 
the enemy expecting them, and were heavily repulsed. 

Both sides now prepared themselves for a great 
pitched battle, and the commanders made speeches 
to their men to encourage them for the struggle which 
they felt would decide the fate of Italy. The Goths 
were terribly cast down by the sight of the vast 
numbers and the splendid equipment of the Roman 
army, and all Totila's eloquence was needed to keep 
them from despair. 

" Fellow soldiers," he said, " this is our last struggle. 
If we win this battle, Justinian's power is crushed, and 
our freedom is secure. Show yourselves men this 
day, for to-morrow it will be too late ; spare neither 
your horses nor your arms, for whether victors or 
vanquished you will never need them more. Re- 
member that there is no safety for you but in victory ; 


to flee is to seek destruction. Let not the multitude 
of the enemy dismay you ; we are a nation fighting 
for our freedom, for our country, for all that makes 
Hfe precious ; they are a hireUng band of Huns and 
Herules, and people of all races and tongues, divided 
by ancient hatreds and bound together by no common 
interest but their pay." 

The two armies were now drawn up in battle array. 
The Romans remained quiet, expecting the Goths to 
begin the attack. But Totila found it necessary to 
delay, as a body of two thousand men, on whose help 
he had counted, had failed to arrive at the appointed 
time. In order to gain time, he sent messengers to 
Narses pretending that he wished to treat for peace ; 
but Narses refused to agree for a conference, knowing 
that the request could only be a stratagem. Mean- 
while, in order to distract the attention of his own 
men, Totila rode in front of the Gothic lines, clothed 
in golden armour and purple robes, and displayed his 
skill in horsemanship, galloping round in circles, 
throwing up his spear and catching it as he rode, and 
other such feats — "just as if he had been trained for 
the circus,'* says Procopius. But about noon the two 
thousand arrived, and then Totila retired to his tent 
and changed his dress, while his soldiers took their 
midday meal. As soon as this was over, he mar- 
shalled his men, and made a sudden assault upon the 
Roman lines, thinking that after his temporary retire- 
ment he should take the enemy by surprise. But 
Narses guessed his intention, and the Romans re- 
mained in perfect order, their food being served out 
to them as they stood in the ranks. 



Totila's attack was badly planned : but no skill in 
generalship would have been of much avail against an 
enemy so far superior in numbers and in arms. Narses 
had neglected no means of stimulating the valour of 
his troops. Before the battle he had ridden through 
the camp, accompanied by men who bore aloft on 
their lances collars, bracelets, and horse-trappings of 
gold, which were to be the prizes of those who dis- 
tinguished themselves on that day. His barbarian 
soldiers could understand this language, if they could 
not understand his spoken words, and barbarians and 
Romans vied with each other in their eagerness to 
win the promised rewards. The Goths fought with 
all the energy of despair, and though the battle went 
against them from the first, it was not till far on in 
the night that they were driven from the field. Six 
thousand of them were killed, in the battle ; many 
thousands more were taken prisoners, and afterwards 
massacred in cold blood. 

After the fight was over, the king of the Goths was 
making his escape from the battle-field accompanied 
by two or three of his faithful friends, when Asbad, 
the chief of the Gepids, rushed at him with his lance, 
not knowing, in the darkness, who he was. One of 
the Goths mdignantly exclaimed, " Dog ! would you 
kill your own master ? " Asbad knew then whom he 
was attacking, and thrust at Totila with all his 
strength, but himself fell wounded immediately after. 
The Goths carried their master as far as Capra^, a 
village seven miles away, where he shortly afterwards 
breathed his last. His companions buried him 
secretly near the village where he died, but his grave 


was not destined to remain unmolested. A few days 
after the battle, a Gothic woman betrayed the secret 
of the king's resting-place to some of the imperial 
officers. Eager to convince themselves that Totila 
was really dead, they opened the grave, and found 
that the woman's story was true. They then com- 
mitted the body again to the earth, having first 
despoiled it of its clothing and ornaments, which were 
afterwards sent to Justinian as evidence that his 
enemy was no more. 

Such was the sad end of this gallant young king, 
after a reign of eleven years. We cannot, as some 
have done, call him the greatest of the Goths. He 
had neither Theoderic's unfailing sagacity nor his 
genius for command. But he had the same passion 
for justice, the same lofty ideal of kingship ; and 
though the lustre of his career is dimmed by more 
than one act of cruel revenge, his character is marked 
on the whole by a chivalrous highmindedness to which 
it would be hard to find a parallel in his own age. 
There are few personages of history whose adverse 
fate so irresistibly excites our sympathy as does that 
of Totila — the Harold Godwin's son, as Theoderic is 
the Alfred, of Gothic history. 

/ After the disaster of Tadino, the remnant of the 
Gothic army retired into Northern Italy, and there 
Teia was chosen king of the Goths. Narses pressed 
forward to Rome, and after a short siege the city was 
once more captured — for the fifth time during Justi- 
nian's reign. -^Perhaps never before had the Italian 
people been so miserable as at this time of so-called 
*' Roman " victory. The barbarians in the imperial 


army, we are told " treated as enemies all who came 
in their way " ; that is, they murdered and plundered 
indiscriminately both friend and foe. And the 
Gothic soldiers who garrisoned the yet uncaptured 
cities, fired with revengeful passion, and no longer 
having Totila to restrain them, committed dreadful 
cruelties upon the unoffending Romans. King Teia 
himself ordered the murder of three hundred youths 
of the noblest Roman families, whom Totila had 
detained as hostages. 

/" The Gothic kingdom had received its death-blow 
at the battle of Tadino ; but it was not yet dead, and 
its last struggles were terrible..^ Teia saw clearly that 
there was little hope of contending unaided with the 
mighty army of Narses ; he tried hard to induce King 
Theudebald of the Franks to become his ally, and 
offered him large sums of money as a bribe. But the 
Franks were not to be tempted : their game was to 
wait until the Goths were beaten and the imperial 
army weakened by the fierce conflict that was coming, 
and then to try to conquer Italy for themselves. 

When Teia found that no Frankish aid was to be 
hoped for, he marched with all his army to the rescue 
of Totila's brother Aligern, who was besieged by a 
strong body of the enemy in the fortress-town of 
Cumae, where a great part of the Gothic treasure was 
deposited. Narses with all the imperial army hastened 
to meet him. Teia wished to delay the unequal 
combat as long as he could : and he pitched his camp 
in a strong position near the foot of Vesuvius, pro- 
tected by a deep and narrow ravine, at the bottom of 
which flows the river Sarno. The two armies faced 


each other on opposite sides of the ravine, and harassed 
each other by volleys of nmissiles ; but Narses could 
neither dislodge the Goths from their position by force, 
nor induce them to abandon it by stratagem. The 
Gothic camp was so placed that it could be kept con- 
stantly supplied with provisions by sea ; and it was 
Teia's intention to hold out until — vain hope ! — 
Fortune should in some unknown way declare her- 
self in his favour. 

But after two months the admiral of the Gothic 
fleet turned traitor, and delivered into the hands of 
the Romans the stores which he was bringing to his 
countrymen. The Goths now began to feel the pres- 
sure of hunger, and were obliged to forsake their 
impregnable position. At first they betook themselves 
to the heights of the Mons Lactarius, now Monte 
Lettere, where they were still secure from attack ; but 
their hopes of being able to find food proved delusive. 
But still they scorned the thought of surrender to the 
Romans, and their only alternative was to risk every- 
thing in one desperate assault on the enemy. Sending 
away their horses, they suddenly rushed on foot upon 
the astonished Romans. The battle that ensued was 
terrible. " Not one of Homer's heroes," says Proco- 
pius, " ever performed greater miracles of valour than 
did Tela on that day." After fighting for many hours 
in the front of his army, he called to his armour-bearer 
to change his shield, which was heavy with the weight 
of twelve broken spears. Left for a moment unpro- 
tected, he was pierced in the breast by a dart. So 
fell the last Gothic king of Italy. The Romans cut 
off his head and displayed it on a pole, to encourage 



their own soldiers and to dismay their enemies. But 
even the loss of their king was ineffectual to abate the 
desperate fury of the Goths ;. they fought on until the 
fall of night, and at daybreak they renewed the strug- 
gle, which continued till darkness again compelled 
them to pause. 
X^ On the third morning, worn out with fatigue and 
hunger, they felt that i^was impossible for them to 
fight any longer. Their leaders sent ambassadors to 
Narses to treat for peace ; but even then they would 
not humble themselves to become the subjects of 
Justinian. All they would promise was that they 
would never again bear arms against the empire, and 


this only on condition of being allowed an unmolested 
passage out of Italy, and of receiving money for the 
expenses of their journey. 

The Roman generals held a council to discuss this 
proposal ; they had had such terrible experience of 
the desperate valour of the Goths that they decided 
to accept the conditions. So, in March, 553, the 
remnant of the defeated army set out on their north- 

^ All authorities seem to agree that these are coins of Teia ; but I 
cannot help suspecting that they may belong to Thela (Thelane), the 
son and titular colleague of Odovacar. 


ward march. What became of them history does not 
say. Perhaps they may have found a home among 
the Franks or Alamans; perhaps they may have 
made their way to the kingdom of the Visigoths in 

But even yet Narses had a hard struggle to undergo 
before the conquest of Italy was complete. 7*- The 
Gothic garrisons in the cities still offered an obstinate 
resistance to their besiegers ; and while the emperor's 
generals were occupied with their siege operations, 
the Franks saw the opportunity for which they had 
been waiting. In the autumn, accompanied by their 
half-savage allies, the Alamans, they poured into Italy, 
to the number of eighty thousand men. The brave 
Aligern, who had defended Cumse for a whole year, 
surrendered to the Romans, thinking it better to be- 
come the soldier of the empire than the slave of the 
Franks. Soon afterwards Lucca was taken by the 
Romans ; but the Goths who held the other cities 
opened their gates to the Franks. The invaders 
were allowed to march over the whole length of the 
peninsula to the Straits of Messina, plundering, burn- 
ing, and massacring as they went. The army of Narses 
had suffered such heavy losses that it was no match 
for this mighty horde ; and the commander was 
obliged to remain in humiliating inactivity, leaving 
the barbarians to roam unchecked over the land. 

During the winter, however, the armies of the 
Franks and Alamans were terribly wasted by plague, 
and by the effects of their own intemperance ; and 
one of the Alaman leaders had returned to his home 
beyond the Alps. When the spring came, Narses, 


who in the meantime had been assiduously drilling his 
men, prepared himself for a decisive encounter with 
the foe. 

At Casilinum, on the banks of the Vulturno, the 
two armies met. The Romans were still far inferior in 
numbers to the enemy ; but the skill of their general 
won the day. The defeat of the Franks was so 
crushing that they offered no further resistance, and 
hastily sought their own land. After the battle Narses 
entered Rome, and for the last time in history, the 
imperial city beheld the stately ceremonies of a 
triumphal procession. 

^ In the next twelve months, the towns which had 
still held out fell one by one into the hands of the 
Romans. The Goths who had defended them either 
went into exile or became blended with the surround- 
ing population. The nation of the Ostrogoths was no 
more. A 

It is strange to think how different were the fates of 
the two great Teutonic kingdoms which in the last 
quarter of the fifth century were planted on Latin soil. 
After fourteen centuries, the fruits of the conquests of 
Clovis in Gaul still abide. If we cannot say that the 
state which he founded still survives, yet in a real 
sense he may be called the creator of the French 
nation. The Franks were never driven from Gaul, and 
though they lost their native tongue, and were ab- 
sorbed in the greater mass of the people whom they 
had conquered, the country to this day bears their 
name. Theoderic was in all ways a greater man than 
Clovis ; and yet the results of his conquest of Italy 
perished utterly within eighty years. The ruin of the 



Ostrogoths was the effect of many combined causes. 
Their numbers from the first were too few to enable 
them to hold Italy by force. Their Arian heresy, in 
spite of their noble tolerance in matters of religion, 
estranged them from the sympathies of their Catholic 
subjects ; and the successors of Theoderic inherited 
neither his genius nor his lofty aims. But even so, we 
know not what the result might have been if Justinian 
had encouraged the Gothic kings to build up in Italy 
a powerful dominion, tributary to his own sovereignty. 
He would have been wiser had he adopted such a 
policy, for the conquest of Italy brought no advantage 
to the empire sufficient to repay the terrible sacrifices 
of blood and treasure by which it was bought. 

The conqueror Narses was appointed the emperor's 
" exarch " or governor of Italy. He took up his 
residence in Theoderic's city of Ravenna ; and for 
just two hundred years he and his successors con- 
tinued to govern, on behalf of the emperors, as much 
of the country as was left them by the successive 
conquests of Lombards and Franks. But with the 
fortunes and misfortunes of Italy under their rule our 
story ha^ nothing to do. 



We have now to take up again the story of the Visi- 
goths, of whom we have lost sight while following the 
history of their eastern kinsmen to its tragic close. 
The Gothic dominion in Spain lasted for a century 
and a half after the downfall of the Ostrogoths ; but 
only a very meagre outline of its history has come 
down to us. Our authorities henceforward are nearly 
all churchmen ; and very often they pass over the 
things which we should most like to know, in order to 
dwell on matters which we regard as trifles, but which 
were interesting to themselves because they had some 
connection with religion. 

It has already been mentioned that after the death 
of Alaric IL, in 507, the great Theoderic constituted 
himself the guardian of Amalaric, the infant king of 
the Visigoths, who was his grandson. While Theo- 
deric lived, Spain and the narrow strip of Southern 
Gaul which had been spared by the Prankish con- 
quests were governed by him in Amalaric's name. 
The Ostrogoth general, Theudis, who was appointed 
viceroy in Spain, was, however, practically the king of 
the country. We are told that he sent his appointed 
tribute to Ravenna every year, and professed to render 


obedience to his master's commands. Theoderic was 
jealous of his power, but did not dare to dismiss him 
from his office, lest he should revolt to the Franks. 
He made many attempts to persuade Theudis to visit 
Italy, but the viceroy was too cunning to fall into the 

When Theoderic died Amalaric, then twenty-four 
years of age, was recognized as sovereign of all the 
Gothic territories west of the Rhone, and the royal 
treasure of the Visigoths was sent from Ravenna to 
Narbonne, where the young king held his court. 

Amalaric endeavoured to strengthen his kingdom 
by marrying into the family of his dangerous neigh- 
bours, the kings of the Franks. But this marriage 
proved to be the cause of his ruin. His queen, Clotilda 
(Hlothhild), the daughter of Clovis, was a fervent 
Catholic, like her mother, after whom she had been 
named. Amalaric had promised to allow her to re- 
tain her own religion ; but his promise was broken. 
We need not believe the Frankish historian when he 
tells us that the queen was cruelly tortured to induce 
her to change her faith, and that she sent to her 
brothers a handkerchief stained with her blood, to 
excite them to avenge her wrongs. But no doubt 
she did complain that she was not allowed to worship 
according to her own conscience. A Frankish king 
was always ready to seize upon a pretext for attacking 
his weaker neighbours ; and King Hildebert, of Paris, 
with a powerful army, marched against Narbonne. 
The Goths were defeated, and fled into Spain. The 
capital was taken, and Hildebert returned home, 
enriched with the royal treasures, and with the plunder 


of the Arian churches. Queen Clotilda accompanied 
her brother, but died before arriving at Paris. Amalaric 
was murdered in a church at Barcelona, by the orders 
of Theudis, whom the people elected king in his stead. 

About the seventeen years (531-548) during which 
Theudis reigned in his own name, we have very little 
information. The two kings of the Franks, Hildebert 
and Hlothhari (Clotaire), invaded Spain in the year 
543, and laid siege to Caesaraugusta, now called 
Saragossa. A wild story is told, how the citizens, 
hard pressed by famine, and on the point of surrender- 
ing, invoked (heretics though they were) the prayers 
of the Catholic martyr, Vicentius. Clothed in mourning 
robes, and carrying the relics of the saint, they marched 
solemnly round the walls, singing penitential psalms. 
When the Franks knew what was the meaning of this 
display, they were seized with superstitious panic, and 
fled in wild disorder. The story was probably invented 
to excuse the Frankish defeat. The Goths overtook 
the flying invaders at the foot of the Pyrenees, and 
the Frankish army would have been utterly annihi- 
lated, if its chiefs had not bribed the Gothic general 
with large sums of money to allow them to make their 
escape unmolested through the mountain passes. 

Even the Catholics admit that Theudis was a wise 
and able ruler, and that he followed the great Theo- 
deric's policy of equal justice to his subjects of every 
creed. When the army of Justinian was making war 
upon the Vandals, their king Gelimer tried in vain to 
persuade Theudis to take his part, on the ground of 
their religious sympathies. Afterwards, however, his 
own nephew, Hildibad, king of the Ostrogoths, be- 


sought his aid in his struggle with the emperor, and 
Theudis led an army to attack the cities which 
Belisarius had conquered from the Vandals in Africa. 
The Goths were beaten with great slaughter, and their 
king barely escaped with his life. The story told to 
excuse their ill success is that they were surprised 
while engaged in worship on the Sunday. They 
thought that their enemies, being Christians, would 
observe the day as religiously as themselves, and 
therefore they were in no fear of attack. This tale 
would have been more credible if it had been told of 
Wulfila's converts two centuries before. 

Shortly after this event Theudis was murdered in 
his palace by one of his own soldiers, who pretended 
to be a lunatic. The dying king expressed bitter re- 
morse for his share in the murder of Amalaric, and 
begged that the life of his assassin might be spared. 

The usurpation of Theudis had broken off the 
hereditary succession, and the kingdom of the Visi- 
goths became once more an elective one, as it had 
been in the most ancient days of their history. An elec- 
tive monarch)', where representative government is un- 
known, and where the nation is too large to be brought 
together in a body, must inevitably lead to disputes 
and civil war. The successor of Theudis was Theu- 
digisel, the general who had led the Goths to victory 
over the Franks. He proved to be a cruel tyrant, and 
the whole nation rejoiced when, after a reign of eigh- 
teen months, he was murdered by his guests at a 
banquet in his own palace. The next election was a 
disputed one. Agila, the king who was chosen by the 
northern cities, was not acknowledged by the south, 


and his arbitrary rule soon disgusted even his own 
supporters. The southern rebellion was headed by 
Athanagild, who appealed for help to Constantinople. 
The emperor sent the Patrician Liberius with a power- 
ful army to his assistance. The struggle lasted five 
years. Agila was defeated, and was put to death by 
his own soldiers, and then Athanagild became king. 

Athanagild's reign of fourteen years was prosperous 
and peaceful, except for his wars with the dangerous 
allies whom he invited into the country. The em- 
peror's soldiers seized many of the cities of Spain, 
and it was found impossible to drive them out. 

Like so many other Visigoth kings, Athanagild 
sought to add security to his kingdom by connecting 
his family by marriage with the house of Clovis. The 
consequences were unhappy, as usual ; the fate of 
Athanagild's two daughters is one of the most tragic 
episodes of Prankish history. The younger of them, 
Brunihild, was married to King Sigebert of the East 
Franks. The wedding was celebrated with great 
pomp, and the fashionable poetaster of the time, 
Venantius Fortunatus, composed a poem for the oc- 
casion. It is a very heathenish sort of performance, 
though the author was a bishop ; it tells how the God 
of Love wounded the heart of Sigebert with an arrow, 
and then Venus and her son extol in turn the 
manly virtues of the bridegroom and the loveliness of 
the bride. The brother of Sigebert, Chilperic, king 
of the North-west Franks, sought the hand of Athana- 
gild's elder daughter, Geleswintha, and in spite of her 
tears and entreaties she was compelled by her parents 
to accept the unwelcome bridegroom. Both princesses 


adopted the religion of their husbands. It was not 
long before Chilperic's affection was estranged from 
his queen by the wiles of a woman named Fredegunda, 
and Geleswintha was put to death by his orders. 
Brunihild stirred up her husband to avenge the murder 
of her sister. In the war between the two Prankish 
kingdoms Sigebert died, and Brunihild had a long and 
stormy reign as queen-mother. She was a woman of 
masculine energy and wonderful powers of mind, a 
great ruler, but tyrannical and unscrupulous, and it 
was said that ten kings and queens lost their lives in 
the turmoils which she excited. At last she fell into 
the power of her enemy Fredegunda, who caused her 
to be tied behind a horse and dragged along the ground 
until she died. Then her lacerated body was thrown 
into the flames. 

Athanagild did not live to hear of his daughter's 
miserable end. In the year 567 he died in his palace 
at Toledo, beloved by his own subjects, and respected 
by foreign nations. He was the first Visigoth king 
since Euric who died a natural death ; his five prede- 
cessors had all come to a violent end — one in battle, 
and the rest by the hand of assassins. 



After Athanagild's death, five months passed 
before the Goths could agree on the choice of his 
successor. The dispute, however, was settled without 
an appeal to the sword. The Gothic parties had 
learned to dread the danger of civil war, and the 
different Spanish cities, by way of compromise, with- 
drew their respective candidates, and agreed to choose 
a king from Gothic Gaul, now the least influential part 
of the kingdom. The new king Leuva TLiuba) was a 
quiet, unambitious man, of whom we hear neither good 
nor evil, only that he handed over the government of 
Spain to his brother Leovigild (Liobagilths), prefer- 
ring for his own part to remain at Narbonne, which 
thus became for a short space once more the Visigoth 
capital. In the third year of his reign he died, leaving 
the kingdom to his brother. 

Leovigild was in many ways one of the greatest 
kings of his time. A bold and skilful general, he sub- 
dued the kingdom of the Sueves in the north-west of 
Spain, wrested from the emperor's soldiers several of 
the cities which they had occupied, and brought the 
native inhabitants of the peninsula into complete 



subjection. He built fortresses and founded cities, 
established a new system of administration of the 
kingdom, and made many new laws suited to the 
altered needs of his people. It was under his firm 
rule that the Goths and the Romanised natives were 
taught to feel themselves to be the fellow subjects 
of one kingdom, and so the process began which ended 
in the complete blending of the two peoples into one. 
In the splendour and magnificence of his court, 
Leovigild far surpassed all his predecessors. He was 
the first Visigoth king who sat on a raised throne in 
the assembly of the nobles, and who placed on his 
coins his own likeness wearing a crown. It will be 
remembered that Southey, in his poem of " Roderick," 
in the complete blending speaks of 

** The golden pome, the proud array, 
Of ermine, aureate vests, and jewel'ry, 
With all which Leovigild for after kings 
Left, ostentatious of his power." 

The name of Leovigild, however, is best known on 
account of the tragic story of the rebellion of his 
eldest son Ermenegild, honoured in later ages as a 
saint and martyr of the Catholic Church. The cause 
of trouble was, in this instance as in so many others 
in Visigoth history, a Prankish marriage. The bride 
whom Leovigild obtained for his son was Ingunthis, 
the young daughter of Sigebert and Brunihild, and 
the wedding was celebrated in Toledo with the 
splendid ostentation of which the king was so fond. 
Ermenegild had already received from his father a 
share in the kingly dignity, and Leovigild hoped that 


the marriage with a Prankish princess would help to 
ensure his son's succession to the crown. 

But the young daughter of Brunihild belonged of 
course to the Catholic faith ; and Queen Goiswintha 
(the widow of Athanagild, whom Leovigild had mar- 
ried) was a bigoted Arian. The Prankish historian, 
Gregory of Tours, tells the story that Goiswintha 
dragged Ingunthis to the ground by her hair, beat 
her cruelly, and then forced her to undergo baptism 
by an Arian priest. Very likely this is pure fiction, 
but it seems to be true that Queen Goiswintha and 
her daughter-in-law quarrelled so much that Leovi- 
gild, for the sake of peace, was glad to send his son 
to Seville as ruler of Southern Spain. 


Soon afterwards, Ermenegild was persuaded by his 
wife and his uncle Leander, the Catholic bishop of Se- 
ville, to forsake the Church of his fathers. His conver- 
sion k) the Catholic faith bore no good fruits ; he made 
common cause with the remnant of the imperial army, 
and headed a rebellion for the purpose of wresting 
the kingdom out of the hands of his heretic father. 

Leovigild tried in vain by entreaties to bring his 
favourite son to a sense of filial duty. Ermenegild, 
whether it was through fanaticism or ambition, refused 
to listen to any of his proposals, and the king was 


compelled to take up arms for the recovery of his 
revolted provinces. Before long Ermenegild was shut 
up in Seville. The siege lasted for two years ; at 
length the city was taken, after the defenders had suf- 
fered terribly from famine. The prince escaped to 
Cordova, but his faithless friends from Constantinople 
betrayed him to his father for a bribe. Taking refuge 
in a neighbouring church, he sent to implore Leovi- 
gild's mercy. He received a solemn promise that his 
life should be spared, and then ventured to leave his 
place of refuge, and threw himself at his father's feet. 
Leovigild burst into tears, and clasped his son in his 
arms. But he felt that Ermenegild could no longer 
be trusted with any share in the government, and he 
ordered him to lay aside the royal ^ robes, and to take 
up his abode in Valencia as a private person. 

A year had not passed, however, when Leovigild 
heard that his son had broken his promise to remain 
at Valencia, and was making his way to Gaul. Before 
setting out he had placed his wife under the care of 
the enemies of his country, the Greek officers from 
Constantinople ; and it seems to have been his purpose 
to get the Franks to help him in another effort to de- 
throne his father. He was captured at Tarragona by 
Leovigild's soldiers and thrown into prison. It is re- 
lated that he was visited in his dungeon time after 
time by messengers from his father, promising him 
freedom and restoration to his royal honours if he 
would only consent to abandon his new faith. But 
his stedfastness was not to be shaken either by pro- 
mise or threats. At last, an Arian bishop, who was 
sent to administer to him the Eucharist, brought back 


word that Ermenegild had received him with gross 
insults, calling him the servant of the devil. Tran- 
sported with passion, Leovigild commanded that his 
son 'should be put to death. The sentence was 
swiftly carried out : an executioner was sent to the 
prison, and the rebellious prince was killed by a blow 
with an axe, without any pretence of trial. 

It is a repulsive story. On one side, we see a son 
making war against his father on the professed ground 
of his duty to the Church ; and on the other side, we 
see a father commanding the murder of his son. The 
Catholics of Ermenegild's own time and country, to 
do them justice, seem generally to have regarded 
his rebellion as a crime. But in later ages, when the 
circumstances were partly forgotten, his wicked con- 
duct was extolled as an act of the noblest Christian 
virtue, and his name was placed in the calendar as that 
of a saint and martyr. 

The widowed Ingunthis was treated by the em- 
peror's officers more like a prisoner than a guest, and 
she tried to make her escape to her relatives in Gaul. 
She was overtaken in her flight, and with her infant 
son Athanagild was placed on board a vessel for Con- 
stantinople. Ingunthis died on the journey, but her 
son was delivered into the hands of the emperor, at 
whose court he remained while he lived. This is the 
last we hear of any interference of the eastern 
emperors with the affairs of Gothic Spain. 

It is not wonderful that after his son's rebellion 
Leovigild regarded the Catholic Church as a danger 
to the State, and that he did some things which are 
complained of as persecution. But the stories are 


greatly exaggerated. He did banish several bishops 
but it is not true that any Catholic suffered martyrdom, 
in his reign. Leovigild was so far from being a bigot 
that he was often accused of hypocrisy because he paid 
religious honour to the shrines of orthodox as well as 
heretic saints. He soon found that harsh treatment 
of the heads of their Church was not the way to win 
over his Catholic subjects ; and he tried to effect his 
object by gentler means. He persuaded the Arian 
clergy to consent that converted Catholics should be 
received into their Church without being baptized 
afresh, and to state the articles of their faith in such a 


way as to make the differences between them and the 
orthodox appear as small as possible. The result was 
that large numbers of Catholics professed to accept 
the king's religion. But the Arians were still a small 
minority, and their attachment to their creed was 
feeble, while the zeal of the Catholics grew daily more 
and more intense. It was plain that it would be hard 
for a heretic sovereign to hold the throne of Spain ; 
and when the great king died (in 587) men believed 
that a great struggle was at hand, which would end 
only in the overthrow of the Gothic rule. 




It had been Leovigild's ambition to found a here- 
ditary dynasty ; and with this end in view he had 
caused his son Reccared to be elected his associate in 
the kingdom. So when he died there was still a 
crowned and chosen king in possession of the throne, 
and it was not necessary even to go through the form 
of an election. 

If Reccared had not already gained the goodwill 
of his people, very likely his father's far-seeing scheme 
would have failed. But the young king had distin- 
guished himself as a general, leading the Goths to 
victory over the Franks, and he had shown wisdom 
and energy as a ruler. The nation therefore gladly 
accepted him as sole sovereign after his father's death. 

Reccared saw clearly that he was likely to be over- 
matched in the struggle with the growing power of 
the Catholic Church. He resolved to convert that 
power from an enemy into a friend, by himself adop- 
ting the religion of the majority of his subjects, and 
inducing the Goths to follow his example. It is quite 
possible that he may have been sincerely convinced 
that the Catholic faith was true ; but this change of 


religious profession was certainly the wisest step he 
could have taken in the interest of his kingdom. 

In order that his conversion might seem to proceed 
from deliberate inquiry, he called together the bishops 
of both churches, and invited them to hold in his 
presence a public discussion of the arguments for their 
respective creeds. He was anxious, he said, to know 
the truth, and the result of the debate should deter- 
mine whether he should accept the Catholic faith, or 
remain an Arian. The champions on both sides put 
forth all their eloquence and learning, and when the 
discussion was ended the king proclaimed his convic- 
tion that the orthodox creed was supported by over- 
whelming evidence of Scripture and miracles ; and 
soon afterwards he was publicly received into the 
Catholic Church. 

The conversion of the king was soon followed by 
that of the whole nation. At first sight this seems 
strange ; but the Goths had long been losing interest in 
the distinctive articles of their creed. They had lived 
surrounded by Catholics, hearing daily of the miracles 
wrought at the tombs of Catholic saints. They could 
not help seeing that their church was only an insig- 
nificant sect, a small exception to the unity of the 
Christian world. They could not help being impressed 
by the fervent faith of their Catholic neighbours. 
And to these many influences they were all the more 
open because their divines had taught them to be 
tolerant in their judgment of those who rejected their 
creed. In Leovigild's reign a Spanish Goth had 
horrified the Catholic bishop Gregory of Tours by say- 
ing that it was a Christian's duty to treat with respect 


whatever was reverenced by others — even by idolaters. 
It is by a strange accident indeed, that the name 
Visigoth has given rise to our word bigot,^ for never 
was there a nation who so Httle deserved the reproach 
of bigotry as the Visigoths of Spain. If their name 
had become a synonym for religious indifference or 
lukewarmness, it would have been much more appro- 

Still, however little the Gothic people knew or cared 
about the differences between the two churches, 
Arianism had been for three centuries their national 
faith, and patriotic pride had kept them faithful to it 
so far. It was a bold venture on Reccared's part to 
go over to the foreign church ; but he had not mis- 
calculated the power of his popularity. Not only the 
laity, but even the clergy, including many bishops, 
speedily followed the king's example. 

A great thing had been accomplished. The work 
which Leovigild had begun — the creation of the 
modern Spanish nation — would have remained un- 
finished if his son had not succeeded in removing the 
barrier of religious differences which hindered the 
blending of Goths and Spaniards into one people. 

The great change, however, was not made altogether 
without resistance. In Southern Gaul, where Reccared 
was less known than in Spain, the news of his conver- 
sion excited a dangerous rebellion. An Arian bishop, 

* The meaning of bigot in the Old French was " detested foreigner," 
"heretic," and it is supposed that the word was a corruption of 
Visigoth. To the Catholic Franks, of course, the Visigoths of Southern 
Gaul and Spain were the objects of bitter hatred, both on religious and 
worldly grounds. 


Athaloc, and two Gothic nobles, put themselves at the 
head of the rebels, and called in the help of the 
Franks. But Reccared's generals soon restored 
order ; and the people of the province before long 
professed themselves Catholics. The bishop Athaloc, 
it was said, died of vexation at the failure of his 
plans. In Spain, also, there were some insignificant 
conspiracies prompted by Arian bishops, but they 
were speedily crushed, and their leaders punished. 
The king's stepmother, Goiswintha (the same who is 
said to have treated Ingunthis with such shameful 
cruelty) had professed herself a convert to the Catholic 
Church. But in her heart she hated the change, and 
she was detected in a conspiracy against the king's 
life. Reccared inflicted no punishment upon Gois- 
wintha, though he banished her accomplices from the 
kingdom. But soon afterwards she died suddenly, 
and her death was of course regarded as a divine 
judgment for her treason. 

In May, 589, Reccared summoned to Toledo the 
bishops of his kingdom, to celebrate the victory of the 
orthodox faith, and to devise laws for the government 
of the Church. Sixty-seven bishops presented them- 
selves in obedience to the royal command. The king 
addressed them on the importance of the work for 
which they were assembled, and exhorted them to 
spend three days in prayer and fasting before begin- 
ning their deliberations. When the three days were 
passed, and the bishops again met in council, Reccared 
opened the proceedings with a speech, setting forth the 
grounds of his conversion. It is worth notice that he 
honestly admitted that "earthly motives" had had 



their share in opening his mind to the arguments 
which had led him to the true faith. He ended by 
reading a formal statement of the articles of his faith. 
This document, after being approved by the assembly, 
was signed by the king, by his queen Baddo, and by 
all who were present. The bishops then proceeded to 
draw up a code of laws settling the constitution of the 
Church of Spain. 

The religious change effected by Reccared was a 
necessity. But its good results were not unmixed. 
With the zeal of a new convert, the king lavished 
wealth and honours upon the Catholic Church, and 
allowed its clergy to attain a degree of political power 
that was full of danger to the State. It was not long 
before the Gothic kings learned the bad lesson of 
persecuting Jews and heretics. 

Reccared himself, however, zealous though he was 
for his new faith, was no persecutor. He seems to 
have honestly striven in all things for the welfare of 
his subjects, and his reign was one of great prosperity. 
He is praised by historians as a wise lawgiver, and 
from his time onwards all the new laws that were 
made were declared binding alike on Goths and 

One of the great events of Reccared's reign was 
the attempt of the Prankish king Guntram to conquer 
the Gothic domains in Gaul. An army of 60,000 
men entered the Narbonnese province, and besieged 
the city of Carcassonne. Reccared's general Claudius 
(a Roman, not a Gothic name, it is worth while to 
note) with a very small force, inflicted on the invaders 
such a crushing defeat that never again, while the 



Gothic kingdom lasted, did the Franks attempt any 
attack upon its Gaulish lands. The Basques, who had 
given trouble in the earlier part of the reign, were 
subdued ; and the interloping " Greeks," though not 
driven out of the country, were compelled to confine 
themselves to their fortresses, so that the last years of 
Reccared's life were a period of profound peace. 

Reccared died in the year 60 1, having in his last 
illness given proof of his piety by making public con- 
fession of his sins. The Goths honoured his memory 
by electing to the throne his youthful son Leuva. 



One short chapter will be sufficient for the storj' 
of the next seventy years. During that time eleven 
kings reigned over the Visigoths, but the records of 
their reigns are scanty, and contain few events of 
any great interest. The main thing that strikes us 
in reading the history of this period is the rapid 
growth of the Church's influence in the government 
of the kingdom. 

Reccared's }'oung son reigned only two years. 
There was a Gothic noble named Witeric, who had 
already in Reccared's lifetime headed an unsuccessful 
rebellion, and had obtained the king's generous 
pardon. This man, ungrateful for the mercy that 
had been shown him, now rebelled against Leuva, 
and succeeded in getting himself acknowledged king- 
in his stead. The dethroned boy-king, his right hand 
having been cut off, was thrown into prison, and 
afterwards put to death. 

The seven years of Witeric's reign were unpros- 
perous, and his rule was that of a selfish tyrant. It 
is said that he wished to restore the Arian religion ; 
however that may be, he seems to have made himself 



detested by the clergy, as well as by the nobles and 
the people. In the year 6io he was murdered at a 
banquet, and his body was buried in unhallowed 
ground without the rites of the church. 

The short reign of his successor, Gundemar, con- 
tains no events worth relating ; but Sisebut, who was 
chosen king in 612, was a man about whom we would 
be glad to know more. He was a successful general, 
and his victories compelled the Greeks to surrender 
nearly all their possessions in Spain. Like the 
Gothic heroes of older days, Theoderic and Totila, 
he was distinguished for humanity towards the con- 
quered. Many of the Greek prisoners had been sold 
into slavery by their Gothic captors, and the king 


purchased their freedom at his own cost. He was 
also a scholar, and a generous patron of such learning 
as existed in Spain in his day. Unhappily it has to 
be added that he was the first Gothic king who ever 
persecuted the Jews. " Baptism within one year, or 
scourging, mutilation, banishment, and confiscation of 
goods ; " such was the choice which Sisebut offered 
to that unhappy people. Thousands of Jews pro- 
fessed to accept the gospel. But the dread of perse- 
cution could not make them Christians at heart. 
The Jews till now had been attached friends of the 


Goths, the forced conversions under Sisebert changed 
them into bitter enemies. Those of them who re- 
ceived baptism and attended Christian worship con- 
tinued in the secrecy of their homes to practise 
Jewish ritual, and to teach their children to curse 
their oppressors. The best men of the Spanish 
Church felt that these persecutions were wrong, and 
succeeding kings did something to lighten the bur- 
dens which Sisebut had imposed. But the mischief 
was irreparable. The Jews, whether professedly con- 
verted or not, had become embittered against the 
Goths, and when the kingdom was attacked by the 
Moors they joyfully lent their aid to its assailants. 

When Sisebut died in 621, his general, Swinthila, 
was elected to the throne. According to some writers 
Swinthila was a son of Reccared. He is remarkable 
as being the first king who reigned over the whole 
Spanish peninsula. The Greeks of the empire, whom 
Sisebut had confined to a small strip of Spain, 
became in Swinthila's time subjects of the Gothic 
kingdom, and their soldiers took service in the Gothic 
armies ; and the rebellious Basques were brought to 
complete submission. Swinthila won the affection of 
the common people among his subjects. The title 
given to him was " the Father of the Poor," but he 
seems to have aimed at limiting the power of the 
Gothic nobles and the bishops. The discontent of 
these two classes reached its height when — without 
asking their sanction — he appointed his son Reccimer 
the partner of his throne. The nobles, led by Sise- 
nanth, rose in revolt, and obtained the help of the 
Prankish king, Dagobert, by promising to give him 



the most valued object among the Gothic royal 
treasures. This was a golden dish or table, weighing 
five hundred pounds and richly jewelled, which had 
been given by Aetius to Thorismund, king of the 
Visigoths, as part of his share of Attila's spoils in 
453. The Franks marched into Spain, and on their 
approach the Goths who had supported Swinthila 
abandoned his cause, and Sisenanth was crowned at 
Saragossa. The Prankish army then returned home, 
and Dagobert sent ambassadors to claim the price of 
his assistance. Sisenanth delivered to them the pre- 
cious object which had been promised, but the Goths 
were so indignant at the thought of losing this re- 
nowned treasure that they took it by force from the 
ambassadors, and brought it back in triumph to 
Toledo. Sisenanth dared not oppose himself to the 
will of his people, and he had to pay Dagobert a 
large sum in compensation. 

The elevation of Sisenanth was a victory of the 
power of the nobles over that of the king and the 
commons. But in the end it led to the supremacy of 
the Church over all three. In order to secure the 
ecclesiastical sanction for his usurpation, the new 
king caused a council to be held at Toledo in the 
year 633. Sixty-nine bishops were present, either in 
person or by their representatives ; and after they 
had finished their deliberations on the Church ques- 
tions submitted to them, they formally confirmed 
the right of Sisenanth to the throne, and declared 
Swinthila and all his family incapable of holding any 
office of dignity in the State. The bishops then 
decreed that in future, whenever a king died, his 


successor should be chosen by the nobles and the 
clergy in council ; and every man who attempted to 
rebel against the king so chosen was declared liable 
to be cut off from the communion of the Church, and 
to be in danger of eternal destruction. The same 
terrible penalties were threatened against any king 
who should endeavour to set aside the new law of 
election by raising his son to the royal dignity with- 
out the sanction of a duly constituted council. It 
was further enacted that henceforward the clergy 
should be freed from all taxation. 

What became of the discrowned Swinthila and his 
family is not known. In the fifth year of his reign 
Sisenanth died at Toledo, and Kindila was chosen as 
his successor. He too was a mere tool in the hands 
of the bishops. The only events of his reign worth 
recording are the decrees of the Church councils that 
no king should in future be chosen who was not of 
noble Gothic descent, or who had assumed the dress 
of a monk. It was also ordained that every future 
king before his coronation should take an oath to 
tolerate no heretics or Jews within his realm. 

Kindila died in 640, and the assembly of bishops 
and nobles chose his son Tulga in his stead. 

The young Tulga gave promise of being just such 
a king as the clergy loved ; but all the awful threats 
of the bishops were unavailing to prevent a rebellion 
among the Gothic nobles. The leader of this rising, 
Kindaswinth, succeeded in getting Tulga into his 
power, and by clothing him in a monk's habit ren- 
dered him, according to the law passed in the last 
reign, incapable of sitting on the throne. 


The bishops were obh'ged to submit to Kinda- 
swinth's usurpation. He was a man of great energy 
and strength of character, and his accession was 
followed by a reign of terror that compelled both 
clergy and nobles to feel that they had found a 
master. Two hundred Goths of the noblest families 
and five hundred of lower rank were punished with 
death for conspiring against his throne. Many others 
were banished, and their goods confiscated, or be- 
stowed on the king's faithful supporters. The heads 
of the Church were wise enough to bow to the storm, 
and they sought to win the king's favour by decreeing 
the penalty of degradation and ex-communication 
against all priests who were guilty of countenancing 
any conspiracy against his throne. By these mea- 
sures all opposition was crushed, and the kingdom 
was brought into a state of order and tranquillity such- 
as had not been known before. 

Strange to say, this fierce and energetic sovereign 
was already nearly eighty years old when he seized 
the throne. After he had reigned seven years the 
bishops, doubtless at his ow^n secret suggestion, pre- 
sented to him a petition that he would abdicate in 
favour of his son Recceswinth, in order to prevent the 
tumults which might be expected to arise at his 
death. Kindaswinth consented joyfully to the re- 
quest, and his son was crowned in 649, with the 
assent of the clergy and of the nobles. The aged 
king, it is said, spent the remaining years of his life 
in acts of piety and beneficence, and died in 652 at 
the age of ninety years. 

Recceswinth seems to have inherited much of his 


father's energy without any of his harshness. The 
oath which he had taken at his coronation contained 
a clause binding him never to pardon any man who 
conspired against his throne. One of his first acts 
after his father's death was to call an assembly of the 
nobles and the higher clergy of his kingdom, and to 
ask them to release him from this cruel promise. 
The council decided that the oath was no longer 
binding, and enacted that the right of pardoning 
rebels should be restored to the king. Other im- 
portant laws for the government of the kingdom 
were passed by the same assembly ; the most im- 
portant of them was that the property amassed by 
a king during his reign should not descend to his 
family, but to the successor who should be chosen 
by the council of nobles and prelates. 
• For twenty- three years Recces winth governed his 
people with such success that the kingdom enjoyed 
unbroken peace — except for a brief rebellion of the 
Basques, led by a Gothic noble named Froya. The 
leader was captured and put to death ; but the 
Basques obtained redress of their grievances, and 
were thenceforward content to accept the rule of the 
Gothic king. 

But the great reason for which Recceswinth de- 
serves to be remembered is that he carried a step 
further the work begun by Leovigild and Reccared, 
of blending Goths and Spaniards into one nation. 
Till his time intermarriage between the two peoples 
was forbidden by law. Recceswinth abolished the 
prohibition ; and, following in his father's footsteps, 
he forbade, under heavy penalties, the use of the 





Roman law in his dominions. Henceforward Goths 
and Romans alike were to be judged according to the 
law-book of the Visigoths. 

In the year 672 Recceswinth died, deeply lamented 
by his people. In the history of the Visigoths a 
reign of twenty-three years of peace had never been 
before, and it was not destined ever to be again. 




The history of King Wamba has often been told 
with many fabulous embellishments ; but the simple 
facts, as they are admitted by sober historians, and 
as we shall here try to set them forth, are themselves 
not altogether wanting in the elements of romance. 

Round the bed on which the dead Recceswinth lay, 
in the castle of Gerticos, the nobles and prelates of 
the Gothic state were assembled for the purpose of 
choosing his successor. Notwithstanding the long 
period of calm which the kingdom had enjoyed, signs 
of coming trouble were plainly visible ; and all 
present felt that there was only one man qualified 
to guide the State through the perilous times that 
were at hand. With one voice they declared their 
choice of Wamba as king of the Goths. 

At first Wamba stoutly refused to accept the crown, 
pleading that he was an old man, and that the burden 
of the kingly oflfice was more than he could bear. 
His fellow nobles and the bishops expostulated with 
him long and earnestly, but he continued to urge 
them to choose some younger man, who would be 
equal to the arduous labours which the nation required 


of its king. At length one of the officers of the royal 
household exclaimed, brandishing his spear, " Wamba, 
thou shalt never leave this chamber save as a dead 
man or as a king ! " The Goths echoed the words, 
and Wamba consented to accept the greatness thus 
strangely thrust upon him. 

On the nineteenth day after Recceswinth's death, 
Wamba was crowned at Toledo. Throughout the 
whole of Spain the event was received with unbounded 
rejoicing ; but the old jealousy between the two por- 
tions of the kingdom showed itself once more, and 
before Wamba had been many weeks king he received 
the news that the Gothic province of Gaul was in open 

The leader of the rebels was a Gothic noble named 
Hilderic, Governor of Nimes, who bad himself as- 
pired to be chosen king of the Goths. He was 
supported by Gunhild, Bishop of Maguelonne, and 
the army which he collected was strengthened by a 
large body of Jews who had fled from persecution in 
Spain, and were glad of the opportunity to fight 
against their oppressors. The Bishop of Nimes, who 
protested against Hilderic's conduct, was loaded with 
chains, and his bishopric bestowed on an abbot named 
Ranimer, who had supported the party of the rebels. 

The general whom Wamba sent against the Gaulish 
rebels was a cunning and unprincipled Greek named 
Paul. As soon as he arrived at Narbonne, he called 
the officers of the army together, and after having 
harangued them on the grievances they had to suffer 
from the ruling party in Spain, he called upon them 
to renounce their allegiance to an imbecile old man, 

344 ^^^ STORY OF WAMBA. 

who knowing his own weakness had shrunk from 
accepting the kingship until he was compelled to do 
so by those who aimed to use him as their tool. The 
speech produced its desired effect, and when one of 
the general's accomplices proposed that the army 
should elect Paul king of the Goths, the whole as- 
sembly answered with applause. The decision of the 
officers was approved by the army ; Hilderic and his 
followers joined themselves to the usurper's party ; 
and after a few weeks Paul was crowned at Narbonne, 
with a golden crown that Reccared had presented to 
the church of Gerona. 

Wamba was at this time in the Western Pyrenees, 
fighting with the Basques, whom Paul's emissaries 
had incited to rebellion. The news was brought to 
him that his treacherous general was accepted as king 
by the Gaulish cities and by a large portion of North- 
eastern Spain. A council of war was called ; some 
of the officers recommended a return to Toledo in 
order to seek reinforcements ; others wished to hasten 
at once to the encounter with Paul. Wamba's de- 
cision was that the subjugation of the Basques must 
first be complete, and that then the march on Nar- 
bonne should be prosecuted without a moment's 
delay. We are told — perhaps this is an exaggeration 
— that the Basques were reduced to entire submission 
in one week. Then Wamba led his forces into the 
revolted province of Spain, and in a few days all the 
cities had opened their gates or had been taken by 
storm. Two of the rebel leaders fell into Wamba's 
hands at Clausurse, and were sent in chains to Toledo ; 
a third, Wittimer, escaped to Narbonne, to give warn- 


ing of the approach of the Gothic army. When Paul 
heard that Wamba was on the way to Narbonne, he re- 
tired to Nimes, leaving Narbonne in Wittimer's charge. 

Soon afterwards Wamba arrived before the walls of 
the city, and invited Wittimer to surrender, promising 
that if he and his comrades would surrender they 
should suffer no harm. The proposal was scornfully 
refused, and after a terrible struggle the city was taken 
by assault. Wittimer took refuge behind the altar of 
the Virgin, till a soldier threatened to crush him with a 
huge stone slab. Then he yielded himself up ; and 
he and his companions, loaded with chains, were 
flogged through the streets of Narbonne. 

Wamba then sent a body of thirty thousand men 
to attack Nimes, while he occupied himself with the 
capture of the smaller cities. Paul's garrison made 
a vigorous defence, and after a whole day's fighting 
the Goths were obliged to send to Wamba for more 
troops. The next morning ten thousand more men 
arrived, and the attack began again. Paul tried to 
persuade his men to risk a battle outside the walls, 
saying that the Goths had become slothful and 
cowardly, having enjoyed so many years of peace, 
and that if once they were met boldly they would 
soon take to flight. But his eloquence was in vain, 
and when the assault began it was soon perceived 
that the Goths were anything but cowards. Paul 
was assailed with bitter reproaches for his folly in 
making light of the enemy's prowess. After five hours' 
hard fighting the gates were burst open, and the 
troops of Wamba rushed into the city, slaughtering 
all that came in their way. 




Paul and what remained of his army and the 
citizens took shelter in the great Roman amphitheatre, 
the splendid ruins of which are still the chief sight at 
Nimes. They converted the building into a temporary 
fortress. It was easily defended, but there had been 
no time for provisioning it, and the people, pressed 
by hunger, broke out into mutiny. One of Paul's 
own relatives was seized by the crowd and murdered 
before the commander's own eyes, and in spite of his 
commands and entreaties. When Paul saw that he 
was no longer obeyed as a king, he tore off his royal 
robes, and flung them aside in the sight of all the 

On the third day (September 3, 673) the inhabitants, 
feeling that further resistance was hopeless, sent their 
bishop Argabad to plead for mercy with Wamba. 
The king promised that no blood should be shed, but 
he kept himself free to inflict any other punishments 
on the rebels. Officers were sent into the city to 
restore order, and to arrest the ringleaders of the 
rebellion. Paul was dragged by the hair of the head 
between two horsemen, and brought into the king's 
camp. He threw himself at Wamba's feet, and with 
tears and abject professions of repentance entreated 
the king to have mercy on him. Wamba scornfully 
assured him that his life should be spared. 

On the third day after the victory Paul and the 
other rebels were brought up for trial before a court 
composed of the king and the great officers of the 
realm. They confessed their guilt, and the tribunal 
sentenced them to death and to forfeiture of their 
property. The king, however, refused to break his 


promise, and ordered that their punishment should be 
scalping and imprisonment for life. 

After restoring peace and settled government in 
the Gaulish province, Wamba returned to Toledo, 
which he entered in triumph like an ancient Roman 
conqueror, followed by a long procession of his 
captives with shaven heads and bare feet. Paul was 
adorned in mockery with a crown of leather, fastened 
on his head with melted pitch. 

The next seven years of Wamba's reign were peace- 
ful and prosperous. He ruled firmly and wisely, and 
though no enemy of the Church, he knew how to keep 
the priesthood duly in check. He even made a law 
that in time of war the clergy of all ranks should be 
bound like other citizens to take up arms for the 
defence of the country. Wamba also decreed that 
free birth should no longer be a condition of serving 
in the army. Gothic warriors of the olden time 
would have scorned to fight in the same ranks with 
slaves ; but the warlike spirit of the nation was de- 
caying, and military service was now looked upon as 
an evil necessity, to be avoided if possible. 

The events which brought Wamba's reign to an 
end are strange indeed. On October 14, 680, he fell 
into a stupor, and continued insensible for many 
hours. The physicians declared that he was dying, 
and after the custom of those days he was clothed in 
a monk's robe, and his head was shaven ; for it was 
believed that those who died in the dress of a religious 
order were sure to obtain salvation in the next world. 
After twenty-four hours Wamba recovered conscious- 
ness ; but when he knew what had been done, he 


recognized that according to Gothic law the fact that 
he had worn a monk's robe disquaHfied him from 
ruHng any longer. So, in the presence of the great 
officers of the kingdom, he signed a document de- 
claring that he abdicated the throne, and appointing 
a certain Erwig as his successor. It was afterwards 
believed that Wamba's mysterious trance was caused 
by a sleeping draught given to him by Erwig If so, 
the nobles of the court must have been sharers in the 
conspiracy. Although it was quite contrary to Gothic 
law that a king should name his successor, neither 
the nobles nor the people offered any protest. Erwig 
was anointed and crowned by the Archbishop of 
Toledo, and Wamba retired into a monastery, and 
there spent the remainder of his life. 



Wamba is the last great man, and his victories the 
last brilliant exploits, that appear in Gothic history. 
His fiery energy had for a moment seemed to inspire 
the state with new life ; but the decay of national 
spirit had gone too far to be arrested. The Visigoths 
had exchanged their old free constitution for a des- 
potism controlled by bigoted prelates : the poorer 
freemen had almost all sunk into slavery, and had 
naturally lost their interest in the welfare of the king- 
dom; the nobles, corrupted by long peace and fancied 
security, were sunk in idleness and vice. Hencefor- 
ward our story tells only of " ruin and the breaking 
up of laws," which went on unchecked till the day 
when the kingdom was crushed like a hollow shell in 
the hands of the Saracen invader. 

The accession of Erwig to the throne was not only 
illegal because he had not been regularly chosen ; it 
was also a breach of the law which provided that the 
king should always be of pure Gothic blood. His 
mother, indeed, was a Gothic princess, a cousin of 
King Kindaswinth ; but his father was a Greek of 
Persian origin, named Artabazes, who had been 


banished from Constantinople, and had found a home 
in Spain. Erwig seems to have had all the cunning 
and the love of intrigue with which the Greeks were 
so often charged. He had, however, but little courage 
or force of character, and throughout his reign was 
little more than a puppet in the hands of his chief 
counsellor, the fierce and unscrupulous Julian (after- 
wards called Saint Julian) the Archbishop of Toledo. 
This archbishop was one of the most remarkable 
figures of his time. It is to him that we owe our 
knowledge of the history of Wamba's campaign 
against Paul ; and his book on this subject is perhaps 
the most brilliant literary work of the seventh cen- 
tury. Its savage exultation over the fallen foe, more 
befitting a warrior than a churchman, is in accord 
with all that we know of the writer's character. After 
having in this book extolled Wamba to the skies as a 
pattern of a hero and a Christian, he quarrelled with 
him, and he is supposed to have been the chief inspirer 
of the conspiracy against him. Himself of Jewish 
origin, he was the most cruel persecutor of the Jews, 
and the tyrant of both Church and people. 

To prevent any reaction in favour of Wamba, 
Erwig and Julian caused the' council of bishops and 
nobles to publish again the law which disqualified 
from high office in the State all who had ever worn a 
monastic dress. The words in which this decree was 
expressed are significant indeed. "There are some 
persons who, having been clothed in the garments of 
penitence when in peril of death, and having after- 
wards recovered, have the audacity to claim that their 
vow is not binding, because it was taken by them in 


a state of unconsciousness. Let all such reflect that 
children are baptised without their will or knowledge, 
yet no man can renounce his baptism without in- 
curring eternal damnation. As it is with baptism, so 
it is with the monastic vow ; and we declare that all 
who violate it are worthy of the severest punishment, 
and are incapable of holding any civil dignity." It 
would have been more honest if the fathers had simply 
declared that Wamba had forfeited the throne. 

Erwig's acts as a lawgiver consisted chiefly in un- 
doing what Wamba had done to strengthen the totter- 
ing state. The penalties imposed on those who 
shirked military service were relaxed ; the clergy 
were no longer required to take their part in the de- 
fence of the kingdom ; those who had been guilty of 
rebellion in former reigns were restored to their for- 
feited dignities and estates ; and all the arrears of 
taxes owing at the end of Erwig's first year were 
cancelled. The unfortunate Jews, whose misery had 
been in some small degree lightened in Wamba's 
reign, were now persecuted more fiercely than ever at 
the instigation of an archbishop sprung of their own 

In order to prevent any rebellion on behalf jf 
Wamba's family, Erwig appointed as his successor 
the late king's nephew, Egica, and gave him his 
daughter in marriage, making him take an oath that 
when he came to the throne he would protect his 
mother-in-law and all the royal family in the pos- 
session of all their property. In the year 6Sy the 
land was desolated by a great famine, which Erwig's 
guilty conscience regarded as God's vengeance for his 


crimes. He took to his bed, and soon afterwards re- 
tired to a monastery, where he died in November of 
the same year. 

One of the first acts of Egica after he was anointed 
king was to call a council of bishops and nobles for 
the settlement of questions relating to the govern- 
ment. When the council was assembled the king 
presented himself in the chamber, and kneeling on 
the floor, implored the prayers of the bishops on his 
behalf He then retired, after handing to the presi- 
dent a document in which was stated a question of 
conscience which he desired the fathers to resolve. 

The question proposed was the following: "When 
I married King Erwig's daughter he compelled me 
to swear that I would always protect his widow and 
children in the enjoyment of their possessions. But 
when I was anointed king I took an oath to exercise 
equal justice towards all my subjects. It is im- 
possible for me to keep both these oaths, for much of 
the wealth that Erwig left behind him was gained by 
extortion. In order to secure his throne Erwig re- 
duced many nobles to slavery, and seized their pro- 
perty. They or their heirs now demand restitution. 
My coronation oath commands me to grant their just 
claims ; the oath I took to Erwig forbids. I pray 
you, reverend fathers, to tell me what my duty is to 

The bishops had not much difficulty in deciding. 
The promise made to the nation, they said, out- 
weighed all merely private engagements. They 
added, very ingeniously, that as Erwig by appointing 
Egica his successor, had been the cause of his taking 


the second oath, he had thereby released him from his 
former obligations inconsistent with it. In this way 
P2gica succeeded in defeating his predecessor's care- 
fully devised schemes for the interests of his family. 

The same council had another piece of business to 
dispose of One of the theological works of their 
president, the Archbishop Julian, had been blamed 
by the pope as not quite orthodox. Julian was not 
the man to receive correction meekly, and at his 
prompting the bishops prepared a reply, defending 
Julian's book, and even hinting that the Holy Father 
must have read it carelessly. They gained their cause : 
the new pope withdrew his predecessor's censure. 

Two years after this triumph the haughty tyrant of 
the Spanish Church died, and was succeeded in the 
archbishopric by a Goth of noble birth, named Sise- 
bert. Before his elevation Sisebert had made a great 
display of austere piety, but when the object of his 
ambition was attained he threw off the mask, and 
lived an openly profane and immoral life. What 
seems to have shocked his contemporaries more than 
anything else in his conduct was that he ventured to 
clothe himself in the " holy robe," which was said to 
have been given to Saint Hildifuns by the Virgin 
Mary, and also to ascend the pulpit on which the Vir- 
gin had been seen to stand, and which had never 
since been profaned by human foot. 

Archbishop Sisebert was desirous of succeeding to 
the same power in the state that had been enjoyed by 
Julian ; but Egica was a man of stronger mould than 
Erwig, and the prelate found himself overmatched. 
He then formed a conspiracy, in which several of the 


great nobles were involved, to murder the king, his 
family, and several of his faithful supporters. The 
plot was discovered, and Sisebert was condemned — not 
to death, for the crimes of the clergy were always 
more lightly punished in Spain than those of other 
men, but to banishment, excommunication, and the 
forfeiture of all his property. 

In the year 694 the Government was thrown into 
the wildest panic by the discovery of another plot, in 
which nearly all the Jews of the kingdom were sup- 
posed to be concerned. It is no wonder that they 
conspired. In the midst of their own miseries — 
though Egica had somewhat relaxed the persecuting 
laws — they heard from the people of their own race 
and faith in Africa that under the Saracen rule the 
Jews were protected and honoured. Who can blame 
them if they intrigued with their kinsmen in Africa to 
bring about a Saracen invasion of Spain ? 

The numbers and wealth of the Spanish Jews were 
even yet large enough to render them dangerous ene- 
mies of the kingdom ; and besides those who pro- 
fessed Judaism there were thousands more whose 
families had for generations been accounted Christian, 
but who in secret cherished their ancestral religion, 
and the bitterest hatred of the Gothic oppressors. 
The king and the bishops, when tlie treason of the 
Jews was revealed, resolved upon nothing less than 
the entire uprooting of the Jewish faith. It was 
enacted that all the grown-up Jews should be sold as 
slaves to Christians, as far off as possible from their 
original place of abode ; and the children at six 
years of age were to be taken from their parents, to 


be educated in the Christian religion, and to be 
married to Christians when they were old enough. 
The masters to whom the Jews were given were 
strictly forbidden ever to grant them their liberty 
unless they underwent baptism. 

Xo one now will doubt the folly any more than the 
wickedness of these savage proposals. Of course they 
could not be carried out ; but enough was done to 
make the most peacably disposed Jew in the kingdom 
the deadly foe of the Gothic power. Little as we 
know of the history of the conflict of the Goths with 
the Saracens, there is proof enough that the help of I 
the Jews contributed not a little to the victory of the 

Three years after the date of this council Egica 
raised his son Witica to be the sharer of his throne ; 
and in 701 he died, leaving Witica sole ruler. 

Although Witica reigned nine years, we know 
strangely little about him. Later writers have de- 
lighted to represent him as a monster of wickedness ; 
but all that is recorded of him on good authority is 
greatly to his honour. He pardoned and restored to 
their rank and estates those whom his father had 
banished or degraded. There were many other 
wealthy persons whom Egica had compelled to sign 
documents, acknowledging themselves debtors to the 
treasury ; Witica caused these papers to be publicly 
burnt It seems that he tried to reform the corrup- 
tions of the Church. A writer belonging to the 
priestly party complains that Sindered, the Arch- 
bishop of Toledo, " inspired with a zeal for holiness, 
but not according to knowledge," obeyed the king's 

DEATH OF irrr/ci. 357 

.-^riers by oonthiiiauly harassing and pcfsecutiii^ men 

. :" h>h standi!^ amoi^st the cfci^. It is likdy 

e' \; : ~ : di the statements cannot be traced back 

nth oentniT^ diat he encouraged the 

r, and tiiat he shoved some d^ree of 

- — at any rate, that he did not try 

sane persecutii^ laws passed 

in iiis i«u<ef s tiiiie. A^KJgether Wltka seems to have 

made him? : ' :he people, and hated and 

feared l^^" : ^t is easy to understand 

why in late; ^. - . . -i of all sorts of dreadlal 

dimes. The sodden ruin of die kii^dom in the first 

year of his soooessor could only be accounted lor fay 

ascribii^ it to divine \^»^(eance; and Wittca was 

suj^x»ed to have been die great sinner whe^e 

wid^edn^s had drawn down die wradi of Heaven 

upon the unhaj^y natioiu 

Wltica died in February, ji<x, leaving two sons 
not \^et come to the age of manhood It seems diat 
he had named one of diese boys as his sucoesscHr in 
the kii^dom, but the council of nobles and prelates 
set aside his wishes, and dected to the dirone a cer- 
:.^n Roderic; a Gothic noble who had hdd the chief 
command of the armv. 



Every one has heard of " Roderic, the last of the 
Goths ; " but of the real history of this famous king 
we know scarcely anything for certain. The romantic 
story of which he is the hero is the invention of 
chroniclers who lived many centuries after his death. 
But we ought not to pass over in silence a story 
which Scott and Southey in England, and many a 
poet in other lands, have taken as the theme of their 

According to this legend, Roderic was the son of 
Theudefrid, a grandson of King Kindaswinth, and 
one of the many victims of Witica's tyranny. The 
cruel king had put out his eyes, and thrown him 
into prison, where he died. To revenge his father's 
fate, Roderic raised a rebellion, seized the person of 
Witica, and having first blinded him, put him to 
death. Roderic was then crowned king ; but Witica's 
two sons bided their time to avenge their father and 
to attempt to regain their inheritance. 

Their opportunity might have been long in coming 
if Roderic had not made a more powerful enemy in 
Count Julian, who in the late king's reign had dis- 
tinguished himself by a brave defence of Ceuta, the 


one Gothic fortress in Africa that had not fallen 
into the hands of the Saracens. Julian, although 
a kinsman of Witica's, had quietly accepted Roderic's 
usurpation, and had continued to fight bravely and 
successfully against the Moors. But when he heard 
that the new king had dishonoured his daughter, 
the beautiful Florinda, he resolved to revenge his 
own wrongs by the betrayal of his country. He 
sought an interview with the Mohammedan chief, 
Musa, and counselled him to undertake the conquest 
of Spain. The success of the undertaking, he said, 
only too truly, was certain, for the Goths as well as 
the Spaniards hated the usurper, and would desert 
his standards when the conflict came. 

Musa needed little persuasion. A body of twelve 
thousand men, led by a Berber chief named Tarik, 
and accompanied by Julian and the Goths who 
followed him in his treason, set sail from the African 
coast, and landed at the place since called " the 
mountain of Tarik" (Jebel Tarik, Gibraltar). 

The Gothic governor of the southern province,Theu- 
demer, was taken by surprise, and wrote to Roderic 
for aid. The king, who was then fighting the re- 
bellious Basques in the Pyrenees, broke up his camp, 
and hastened southwards, summoning his army from 
all parts oi the country to meet him at Cordova. 
A hundred thousand men — so runs the story — as- 
sembled under his banner ; but among this great 
host there were few who were loyal to his crown. 
The Gothic nobles who had reluctantly submitted 
to his rule now said among themselves, " Why 
should we risk our lives in the defence of the usurper? 


The Moors are only in quest of plunder ; when 
Roderic is beaten they will go home with their booty, 
and then we can give the throne to whom we will." 
But Roderic thought that now the country was 
threatened by an infidel foe his rivals would lay 
aside their selfish aims, and unite against the com- 
mon danger. In this confidence he entrusted the 
command of the two wings of his army to the sons 
of Witica. 

The great battle took place near Xeres de la 
Frontera, ten miles north of Cadiz, beside the river 
Chrysus, now called the Guadalete. Roderic ap- 
peared on the field clothed in a purple robe and 
wearing a jewelled crown. His chariot of ivory was 
drawn by eight milk-white steeds. It was not until 
after several days' fighting that the sons of Witica 
offered their aid to the enemy. Tarik agreed to 
their conditions, and the battle ended, on July 26, 
711, in the utter rout of Roderic's supporters. As 
to the fate of Roderic himself there are three dif- 
ferent stories. Some say that he was slain by Tarik's 
own hand ; others that he was drowned in attempting 
to cross the river, and that long afterwards his golden 
shoes, and his horse Orelio, were found in the mud 
of the stream. The third legend is like that which 
was afterwards told of Harold of England — how the 
defeated and wounded king escaped from the battle- 
field, and lived for many years in a hermitage under 
a feigned name, devoting himself to prayer and to 
self-mortification in atonement for his sins. It is 
this last version that Southey has used in his poem of 
" Roderick, the Last of the Goths." 




Such is the story of Roderic, as it is told by 
Spanish and Arabic writers of the thirteenth and 
later centuries. Perhaps it may contain fragments 
of true history here and there ; but what we really 
know of Roderic's reign is little more than this, that 
his defeat on the Guadalete was the e«d -of the^ 
Gothic kingdom of Spain. Almost unresisted, the 
conquerors spread over the land, taking possession 
of city after city, until " the green flag of the Prophet 
waved from the towers of the royal palace of 



The Visigoths were never driven out of Spain as 
the Ostrogoths were driven out of Italy. They re- 
mained to become, like the older inhabitants of the 
country, subjects of the Moors. Under the Mo- 
hammedan dominion the two Christian peoples, 
drawn together by their common hatred of the infidel, 
and by their common aspirations after freedom, 
became finally one nation. The story of the Goths 
merges now into the story of Spain. 

Yet even through the seven centuries of Moorish 
dominion the descendants of the native Spaniards 
continued to look up to the descendants of the Goths 
as to their natural leaders and chiefs. After the 
battle on the Guadalete the Goth Theudemer, the 
former viceroy of Southern Spain under Roderic, 
betook himself with a small band of men to the 
eastern coast, and there defended himself so valiantly 
that the conquerors allowed him to establish a tribu- 
tary Christian kingdom in Murcia, where he reigned 
until his death. Afterwards the Moors broke the 
treaty which they had made with him, and the " land 
of Theudemer," as the Arabic writers call it, was 
joined to the Mohammedan dominions. In the far 


north-west, the Christians of the Asturias maintained 
their independence under a succession of Gothic 
chiefs, to whom the later kings of Spain were proud 
to trace their ancestry. In all the uprisings of the 
Christians against the Moors, and in the last great 
struggle which ended in the overthrow of the infidel 
rule, men with Gothic names appear as leaders and 
champions. But for the Gothic element in the 
Spanish people the chivalry of Castile would never 
have been, and Spain might even yet have remained 
under Mohammedan rule. To this day the noble 
families of Spain boast, if not always with reason, 
of the purity of their Gothic blood. 

For the last traces of the Goths as a separate 
people, speaking their own language, we must, how- 
ever, look not to Spain, but far away to the east of 
Europe. At the end of the fourth century, when 
the empire of Ermanaric fell under the yoke of the 
Huns, a small remnant of the Ostrogoths found 
shelter from the savage invaders in the Crimea, and 
in this remote corner of Europe they preserved their 
existence as a nation for more than a thousand years. 
Early in the fifth century they were converted to 
Catholic Christianity, and their bishops long con- 
tinued to take part in general councils of the church. 
In the year 1562 a traveller from Belgium, named 
Busbek, met with two ambassadors sent by this 
little nation to Constantinople, and wrote down a 
long list of words belonging to their language. Of 
course many of these words were greatly corrupted, 
and some of them are not Gothic at all, but borrowed 
from the laneuasres of the surrounding- nations. But 



still the list makes it quite clear that the language 
spoken by this Crimean people must originally have 
been the same with that used by Wulfila in his 
translation of the Bible. ^ Nearly two hundred years 
later — about 1750 — a charitable Jesuit of Vienna, 
named Mondorf, ransomed a prisoner from the 
Turkish galleys, and learned from him that he came 
from the Crimea, and that his native language bore 
some resemblance to German. It is possible that 
Mondorf was not mistaken, and (strange as it seems 
to think of it !) that the language of Wulfila was 
actually surviving, in some corrupted shape, only a 
century and a half ago. Mondorfs ransomed captive 
knew nothing about Christianity, but said that his 
countrymen worshipped an ancient tree. Until the 
eighteenth century the Crimea was still called 
Gothia, at least in the official documents of the 
Greek Church ; but the name is now gone out of 

^ Busbek was himself uncertain whether these people were Goths 
or whether they were Saxons, some of whom, he thought, Charles the 
Great might possibly have transported into the Crimea. They were 
sufficiently numerous to furnish a body of eight hundred matchlock-men 
to the Tatar Khan, and had two towns, called Mancup and Scivarin 
About forty of the words that Busbek ^ives were recognised by him as 
resembling his own Flemish. Some of these are in form much nearer 
to Wulfila's Gothic than to any other Teutonic language : thus goUz 
"gold," mine "moon," schlipcn "sleep," are in Wulfila gtclth, ?fiena, 
slepan. Of the words which Busbek failed to recognise as Teutonic 
several are known to be genuine Gothic, as statz " earth," " ground '' 
(for staths "place"), ael "stone" (for hallu-?,), boar "boy" (for 
barn), ivichtgata "white" (for hweiia/a), mycha "sword" (for meki), 
and the pronouns tzo, ies, "thou," "he" (for thzi, is). The numerals 
up to ninety can be identified as Gothic, but the words given by Busbek 
as standing for a hundred and a thousand are, curiousl/ enough, good 


use, and, so far as we know, the Gothic language 
is wholly extinct 

So ends the story of the once mighty nation of 
the Goths. Many other peoples that have played 
as famous a part in history have passed away ; but 
they have left behind them abundant monuments 
of their ancient greatness. With the Goths it has 
been otherwise. They have bequeathed to the 
world no treasures of literature, no masterpieces of 
art, no splendid buildings.^ They have left no con- 
spicuous impress on the manners or the institutions 
of any modern European people. The other great 
Teutonic nations that overran the Roman Empire 
have their memorial in the modern names of the 
countries which they conquered. The Franks have 
given their name to France, the Burgunds to Burgundy, 
the Langobards to Lombardy, and the Vandals to An- 
dalusia. But of the conquests and dominion of the 
Goths not even such slight record remains. 

Yet though the Goths have passed away, leaving 
behind them so little to show what once they were, 
their memory can never die. History cannot forget 
the people whose valour shook the decaying Roman 
Empire to its fall, and prepared the way for the rise 
of a worthier civilization on the ruins of the old. In 

' What we miscall "Gothic architecture" has no historical con- 
nection with the Goths. The few buildings of theirs which are pre- 
served are in a wholly different style. When the word " Gothic " was 
first applied to the pointed style of architecture, it was meant to denote 
the opposite of " Roman." Yet, after all, this use of the name is a sort of 
memorial of the former greatness of the Goths, because it is founded 
on the correct notion that there was once a time when the Romans and 
the Goths were the two chief peoples of the Western world. 



their work of destruction they succeeded ; whenever 
they tried to build up they failed. But it is some- 
thing to have attempted nobly ; and, for all the 
sadness of its ending, the history is not wholly in- 
glorious that records the saintly heroism of Wulfila, 
the chivalrous magnanimity of Totila, and the wise 
and beneficent statesmanship of Theoderic. 






Readers of books on Gothic history are often puzzled by 
finding that the same name is often spelt quite differently by 
different writers. The reason is that the Gothic names have 
come down to us in the works. of Greek and Latin authors, who 
have spelt them in the manner that seemed to themselves best 
fitted to express the foreign sounds. If Englishmen had to spell 
French or German names by ear, without knowing any system 
of orthography but that of their own language, we should find 
that the same name would seldom be spelt alike by two different 
persons. Just so it often happens that a Gothic name is given 
by two ancient writers in forms so widely apart that it is not 
easy to see that the same person is referred to. Modern his- 
torians sometimes choose one or other of the forms given in 
their original authorities, and sometimes they prefer to spell the 
names in the correct Gothic manner. To adopt this last course 
would often be very awkward, for we should have to use such 
uncouth and unpronounceable combinations of letters as Thiu- 
dareiks and Audawakrs, instead of Theoderic and Odovacar. 
The plan which has been followed in this book is that of giving 
well-known names in their most usual modern spelling, and in 
other cases to come as near to the true Gothic form as is 
possible without making the names difficult to pronounce ac- 
cording to ordinary English rules. Where the Gothic form of 
a name cannot be ascertained, the Greek or Latin spelling has 
mostly been left unaltered. 


The names borne by the Goths were very much of the same 
sort as those used among the Anglo-Saxons and the other 
ancient Teutonic nations. There are many books which profess 
to explain the meanings of Anglo-Saxon or Old German names ; 
thus Frederick is often said to mean, " one who rules in peace." 
This, however, is altogether a mistake. The fact is that old 
Teutonic names (at least those of them which are compounded 
of two words) were not usually intended — like some of those in 
the Bible— to express any particular meaning. Certainly the 
name Frederic is formed of a word meaning " peace " and a 
word meaning "ruler." But the true explanation is that F7'ed- 
was one of a number of which it was customary to use as begin- 
nings of names, and -rlc was one of the words which it was 
customary to use as endings. Any word belonging to the one 
list might be joined to any word in the other list, even if the two 
were quite contradictory in sense. There are, for instance, 
ancient German names, which, if translated literally, would be 
"peace-spear," and "peace-war." 

A glance at the list of words used by Goths, Anglo-Saxons, or 
ancient Germans in forming personal names would be sufficient 
to show, if we did not know already, that these peoples delighted 
greatly in war. They are, for the most part, words like 
" war," " battle," "victory," "spear," "army," " brave," " fortu- 
nate." Amongst them are also names of savage animals, chiefly 
"wolf" and "bear." Names of foreign nations, too, are found 
in the list. This looks at first sight curious ; but when an Anglo- 
Saxon called his son Peohthere (Pict-army), or when a Goth 
called his son Winithaharyis (Wend-army), he probably meant 
to express a hope that the boy would grow up to be a great con- 
queror of Picts or Wends. So at least it must have been when 
these names were first coined ; but, in later time, when they 
were established in use, parents would give them to their 
children with as little thought of the meaning as modern 
parents have when they call a daughter Ursula ("little she- 

The following is a list of some of the most frequent words 
used in the formation of Gothic names, with their meanings, 
and the corresponding forms that were used in Anglo-Saxon 




I. — Words used for beginnings of names : 


" terrible." 


" war," A.S. 



"lofty,'' (?)A.S.Eormen- 


"Hun"(?) ,, 



" temple," ,, Ealh- 


" effort, toil" (?) 


"people," ,, 



" spirit, courage." 


" mighty," ,, 



"god," A.S. Os- 


" noble," ,, ^thel- 


"brave," ,, 



"year " {?) 


"wealth," ,, Ead- 


" counsel." 

— , / .. 


"counsel," ,, 



" battle,'' ,, Beado- 





"bold," „ Bald- 

7 7 7 


"victory," ,, 



"day," „ Daeg- 


"true." . 







"peace," ,, Freothu- 


" daring." 
"people," ,, 



" spear," ,, Gar- 




" country.'"' 


"good," ,, God- 


"fighting." ,, 







"battle," ,, Guth- 





"army," ,, Here- 


"wolf," ,, 



"high," „ Heah- ■ 

2. — Words used as endings. (In the names as they appear 
in modern books, the final s, which is the name of the nomina- 
tive case, is generally omitted.) 


"war," A.S. 

-heed (?) 


"dear," A.S. 



" bright," ,, 



"famous," ,, 






"protector," ,, 



"peaceful," ,, 



"daring," ,, 


funs ' 

ready, eager," ,, 



"counsel," ,, 



"desiring," ,, 



"ruler," ,, 






"strong," M 



" citizen." 


"watchful," ,, 



"army," ,, 



"wolf," ,) 


And in female names : 

-gunthnjs "battle," A.S. -gyth 

-hild[i]s "war," ,, -hild 

-swintha "strong" ,, swith 



Amongst the Goths, as among all other peoples, diminutives 
or "pet names" were formed from ordinary pet names by 
shortening them and adding an affix. This affix was usually 
-ila, but sometimes -ika. Thus such a name as Audamer-s 
might become Audila or Merila ; Wulfareiks might become 
Wulfila or Reikila. But just as in modern timies children are 
sometimes christened Harry or Lizzie, so these Gothic diminu- 
tives were often used as regular names, as in the case of Bishop 
Wulfila and King Badwila or Totila. 

There were other Gothic names, formed from the roots of 
verbs, or from other words, by adding the syllable a or ya, as 
Liuba (Leuva), from litcfs, dear ; Walya, from walyan, to choose ; 
Wraihya (Uraias), from ivreihaii^ to protect. In some cases the 
names ending in -a seem to be contractions or compressions of 
longer names, as Wamba, perhaps for Wandilbairhts ; Gaina^ 
for Gaisananths. It was not often that the Goths used ordinary 
nouns or adjectives as personal names, but a few instances do 
occur, such as Wisunths (Wisandus), " Bison," which was 
originally a nickname, but is found applied to certain persons 
as a regular name. 



Abritta, battle of, 28 

Aetius, Roman general, 108 

Agila, king of the Visigoths, 318 

Alamans, the, 178, 312 

Alaric I., king of the Visigoths, 

Alaric 11. , king of the Visigoths, 

118-124, 146, 151, 175, 179 
Alatheus, Gothic chief, 46, 72 
Alawiw, judge of the Visigoths, 

Albes, Gothic envoy to Belisarius, 

Albinus, Roman senator, 182 

Alexander, nicknamed " Scis- 
sors," 277 

Aligern, Ostrogothic commander, 

Aliquaca, Gothic chief, 40 
Amala, 13 
Amalaric, king of the Visigoths, 

124, 180, 315 
Amalaswintha, daughter of Theo- 

deric, 175, 187, 191 
Amalings, 13, 24, 46 
Anastasius, Emperor of the East, 

156, 178, 180 
Anchialus, 34 
Anses, deities worshipped by the 

Goths, 13 
Ant£e, a Slavonic people, 47 
Appian Way, 242, 249 
Aquitania, 106 
Araric, Gothic king, 41 
Arcadius, Emperor of the East, 

84 ; column erected by, 9 

Architecture, i6l ; the so-called 

"Gothic," 365 
Argait, Gothic commander, 26 
Arian Christianity, 59, 117, 185 
Aries, 180 

Asbad the Gepid, 307 
Asia Minor, ravaged by Goths, 32 
Asinarian gate (at Rome), 225, 292 
Aspar the Patrician, 133 
Atawulf, king of the Visigoths, 

Athalaric, king of the Ostrogoths, 

176, 187, 192 
Athanagild, king of the Visigoths, 


Athanagild, son of Ermenagild, 


Athananc, 50-55, 58 ; visits Con- 
stantinople, and dies there, 80 

Athens, the Goths at, 32, 85 

Attalus, made Western emperor 
by Alaric, 94 ; deposed, 95 ; his 
fate, 103 

Attila, king of the Huns, 111-114 

Audafleda, wife of Theoderic the 
Great, 175 

Audathoeus, Gothic commander, 

Aurelian, Roman emperor, 36, 

Avitus, 1 10 ; made Emperor of the 

West, 115 


Balamber, king of the Huns, 46 
Balthings, the, 13, 85, 103 
Basques, 332, 341, 344, 359 



Battle of Galtis, 26 ; of Abritta, 
28; of Naissus, 35; of Hadria- 
nople, 72; on the Marosh, 42; 
of Pollentia, 87 ; of Verona, 
147 ; ofMoircy, 112 ; of Voclad, 
124; of theUlca, 146; ofTadino 
(Taginae), 306 ; of Mons Lacta- 
rius, 310; of Casilinum, 313; 
of the Guadalete, 360 
Belisarius, 199, 207, 275, 285-297 
Berismund, Amaling prince, 47 
Bessa the Goth, general of Justi- 
nian, 216, 225, 232, 288, 290, 

" Bigot," perhaps derived from 

"Visigoth," 329 
Boethius, 165, 166, 183, 184; his 

famous book, 183 
Bolsena, lake of, 204 
Bow, used by Roman horsemen, 

Brunihild, queen, daughter of 

Athanagild, 319 
Bucharest king, 18 
Bulgars, the, early mention of, 

Burgunds, the, 26, 107, 121 
Busbek, Belgian traveller, 363 


Calendar, Gothic, 4 

Cassiodorus, 157, 161, 165, 168, 
192, 204, 251-253 

Chalcedon, 31 

Chilperic, Prankish king, 319 

Christians, persecuted by Athan- 
aric, 55, 58 

Classis, the port of Ravenna, 271 

Claudian, the post, 87 

Claudius, Visigothic general, 331 

Claudius Gothicus, Roman em- 
peror, 34-36 

Clotaire see Hlodhari 

Clotilda, wife of Amalaric, 316 

Clovis (Hlodwlg) king of the 
Franks, 118, 178 

Cniva, Gothic king, 27 

Code, Theoderic's, 170 

Column of Theodosius, 9 

Conon, Roman general, 281-283 

Constantine, Roman emperor, 39 
Constantinople made the capital 

of the Roman Empire, 40 
Constantius Roman emperor, 58 
Costume of the Goths, 9 
" Count of the Goths," the, 169 
Crimea, 31, 41, 363 
Cumae, 309 

Dacia, the Goths in, 37 
Dagobert, Frankish king, 337 
Dalmatia, 168, 209, 213 
Danube, river, 26, 58, 66 
Decius, Roman emperor, 26-28 
Dexippus, s^ 
" Diana of the Ephesians," temple 

of, burnt, 32 
Dietrich of Bern, 172 
Diocletian, Roman emperor, 39 
Dnieper, river, 45 
Dniester, river, 5, 34, 55 
Durazzo, 197 


Egica, king of the Visigoths, 

Ephesus taken by the Goths, 32 
Epiphanius, bishop of Pavia, 

153-155' 158 
Eraric, king of the Ostrogoths, 279 
Ermanaric, Gothic king, 43, 46 
Ermanfrid, king of the Thurin- 

gians, 175 
Ermenegild, son of Leovigild, 

Erwig, king of the Visigoths, 

Euric, king of the Visigoths, 1 16 
Eutharic, 175 

Famines, 68, 266, 282, 291 
Fastida, king of the Gepids, 26 
Filimer, Gothic king, 23 
Flaminian Way, 226, 256 
Florence besieged by Radagais, 

Florinda, daughter of Count Julian, 




Forum Trebonii, 28 
Franks, 107, 120-123, 223 
Frithigern, judge of the Visigoths, 

50. ^55 > 65-80 

Gainathi Goth, Roman general, 

his rebellion, 99 
Gaisericking of the Vandals, 115 
Galla Placidia, Roman princess, 

100 ; marries Atawulf, loi ; 

her subsequent fate, 105 
Gallienus, Roman emperor, 30, 

Gallus, Trebonianus, Roman 
emperor, 29, 30 

Galtis, battle near, 26 

Gaul, first entered by Visigoths, 
100 ; foundation of the Visigoth 
kingdom in, 103 ; conquered 
by Clovis, 125 ; territories of 
the later Visigoths in, 321, 343- 


Geberic, Gothic king, 41 

Geleswintha, Visigothic princess, 

Gepids, 7, 26, 146, 177 

Germanus, nephew of Justinian, 
275, 301, 302 ; his son Germa- 
nus, 302 

Getes (Getie), 19 

Glycerius, Emperor of the West, 
126, 137 

Godegisel, king of the Burgunds, 

Goiswintha, Visigothic queen, 

323. 330 
'■ Gothic architecture, falsely so 

called, 36/^ 
Gothic language, 4, 62 ; last traces 

of, 364 
Gothland, 8 
Goths, appearance and costume 

of, 9 ; national character of, 

II ; religion of, 13 
Gotones, mentioHed by Tacitus, 

Gratian, Emperor of the West, 

Greece ravaged by the Goths, 32; 

campaign of Alaric in, 85, 86 

Greutungs, 5 
Grimm, Jacob, 5 
Guadalete, battle of the, 360 
Gudelina, wife of Theodahad, 205 
Gundemar, Visigothic king, 334 
Gundobad, king of the Burgunds, 

117, 120, 126, 155 
Guntharic, Gothic general, 26 
Guntram (Guntchramn), Frankish 

king, 331 
Gutans, the native name of the 

Goths, 5 
Guttones, nientioned by Pliny, i 


Hadrianople, battles at, 40, 73- 

75 ; siege of, 76 
Hadrian's tomb, 238, 241, 299 
Halya, the goddess, 15, 24 
Halyarunos, 24 
Hart's Ford, the, 123 
Heathenism of the Goths, 13 
Herules, 8, 23, 32, 33, 128 
Hildebert, Frankish king, 317 
Hilderic rebels against Wamba, 


Hildibad chosen king of the Ostro- 
goths, 272 ; his death, 278 

Hildiger, Roman general, 258, 

Hlodhari (Clotaire), Frankish king, 

Hlodowig, see Clovis 
Honorius, Emperor of the West, 

Hrethgotan, 8 
Hunimund, Gothic king, 47 
Fluns, 46-49, III- II 4 

Ibba, Ostrogothic general, 158, 

Ingunthis, wife of Ermenegild, 

322, 325 
Isonzo, river, 146 


Jews, treated kindly by Theoderic, 
159 ; their gratitude, 217 ; per- 
secuted by Sisebut, 334 ; con- 
spire against the Visigoths, 355 



John, the grandson of Vitalian, 
Roman general, 253, 255, 
258-263, 304 

John I., pope, 185 

Jordanes, 7, 19, 23, 24, 26, 41, 
46, 48, 113, 124, 165 

Julian, Count, 359 

Julian, St., archbishop of Toledo, 

Julius, minister of the Eastern 

Empire, 78, 79 
Justinian, Emperor of the East, . 

197, 198-314 


Kindaswinth, king of the Visi- 
^goths, 339 
Kindila, king of the Visigoths, 


Laurel-grove (Ravenna), palace of 

the, 150 
Legends relating to Theoderic, 

Leo, Emperor of the East, 133 
Leovigild, king of the Visigoths, 

321-326 j 

Leuva I., king of the Visigoths, 

Leuva IL, king of the Visigoths, 

Liberius, Roman minister of Odo- 

vacar and Theoderic, 156 
Libraries at Athens, spared by the 

Goths, 32 
Licinius, Constantine's war with, 

Litorius, Roman general, 108, no 
Lupicinus, 67-69 


Manners of the Goths, 12 
Marcian, Emperor of the East, 


Marcianopolis, 26, 68 

Martin, Roman general, 243, 264 

Mataswintha, daughter of Amalas- 

wintha, 219, 223, 255, 268, 

275. 301 
Maximus, governor of Thrace, 67 

Maximus, Emperor of the West, 


Milan, 147, 264 

Milvian Bridge, 227, 256 

Moesia, 26, 27, 29, 58, 59 

Mondorf, his account of a Crimean 
Goth, 364 

Mons Lactarius, 310 

Mullenhoff, Karl, i note 

Mundilat he Goth, Roman general, 

Mundo the Hun, 177 

Mundus the Gepid, Roman gene- 
ral, 209, 212 

Naissus, 35 
Naples, siege of by Belisarius, 213- 

215 ; by Totila, 281 
Narbonne, loi, 180, 316, 343, 345. 
Narses, 261-263, 302-314 
Naulobatus, Herule chief, 34 
Nepos, Julius, Emperor of the 

West, 126, 130 
Nicomedia, 31 
Nicopolis, 27 
Nimes, 345, 347 
Novje, 145 


Odovacar, 1 28-1 51 

Orestes, 126-127 

Orleans besieged by Attila, 112 

Ostrogotha, Gothic king, 24-26 

Ostrogoths, 5, 39, 46, 67, 72, JT,, 


Palermo, 209 

Paris, 117 

Paul of Cilicia, 299 

Paul the Greek, his rebellion 
against Wainba, 343-348 

Pavia (Ticinum), 148, 153 

Pelagius, 289, 293, 294 

Peter of Thessalonica, ambassa- 
dor of Justinian, 200, 210 

Philip the Arab, Roman emperor, 

I'hilippopolis, 27 

Pilzia, Gothic general, 177 

Placidia see Galla Placidia 



Pliny the elder, i 

Popes, John I,, 185 ; Silverius, 

223 ; Vigiliiis, 301 
Priesthood, heathen, 15 
Procopius, the usurper, 53 
Procopius, the historian, 251, 266, 

273, 274, 284, 296, 306, 310 
Provence, 180 
Ptolemy, 19 
Pytheas of Marseilles, i 


Radagais invades Italy, 89 
Ravenna, 89, 92, 96, 149, 187, 

223, 268-299, 304 
Reccared, king of the Visigoths, 

Recceswinth, king of the Visi- 
goths, 339-341 
Regeta, council held at, 218 
Rikimer, the emperor-maker, 116 
Rimini (Ariminum), 149, 259, 304, 

Roderic, king of the Visigoths, 


Rome, besieged by Alaric, 92, 
94, 96 ; taken by the Vandals, 
115; entered by Belisarius, 225; 
besieged by Witigis, 233-257 ; 
by Totila, 288-292 ; deserted 
by Totila, 295 ; recovered by 
Belisarius, 295 ; regained by 
Totila, 298 

Romulus Augustulus, Emperor of 
the West, 127-130 

Rugians, 8, 279 

Runes, 15 

Rusticiana, widow of Eoethius, 


Sacrifices, see Heathenism 
Safrax, Gothic leader, 47 
Scandinavia, supposed early home 

of the Goths, 7 
Scanzia, island of, 7 
Scirians, the, 8, 128 
Sebastian, Roman general, 70, 75 
Severinus, Saint, 128 
Seville, 324 
Sibyl, pretended prophecies of the 

212, 249 

Sicily submits to Belisarius, 209 ; 

harried by Totila, 301 
Sigebert, P'rankish king, 319 
Sigeric, king of the Visigoths, 103 
Sigismond, king of the Burgunds, 

17s, 181, 184 
" Silver Book," the, 64 
Silverius, Pope, 222 
Singidunum, 135, 145 
Sisebert, archbishop of Toledo, 

Sisebut, king of the Visigoths, 

Sisenanth, king of the Visigoths, 

Songs, Gothic, historic legends 

derived from, 7, 23, 42, 117, 


Spain, first entered by the Visi- 
goths, 103 ; conquered by 
Wallia, 105 ; governed by 
Theoderic, 180 ; history of, 
under Visigoth kings, 315-363 

vSpali, the, 23 

" Storied Column," the, 9 

Stilicho, Roman general, 85-91 

Sueves, the, 47, "7. 321 

Sunigilda, wife of Odovacar, 151 

Swanhilda, legend of, 46 

Symmachus, 165 

Synagogues, burnt by fanatics, 



Tacitus mentions the Gotones, 2 

Taxation, 157 

Taylor, Dr. Isaac, his theory of 
the Runes, 18 

Tela, 304 ; his reign over the 
Ostrogoths, 308-310 

Tervings, 5 

Teutonic languages, 4 

Thelane (Thela?), son of Odova- 
car, 149-15 I 

Theoderic the Great, 48, 122, 133- 


Theoderic Strabo, 134, 13^-143 

Theoderic I., king of the Visi- 
goths, 107-113 

Theoderic 11. , king of the Visi- 
goths, 114-116 

Theodora, empress, 200, 205 



Theodosius, Roman emperor, 64, 

Thermopylee, 85 
Theudebald, king of the Franks, 


Theudeliert, king of the Franks, 
266, 300 

Theudemer, king of the Ostro- 
goths, 48, 135-137 

Theudemer, governor of Southern 
Spain under Roderic, 362 

Theudigisel, king of the Visi- 
goths, 318 

Theudis, Ostrogothic viceroy of 
Spain, 180 ; king of the Visi- 
goths, 317, 318 

Thrafstila, king of the Gepids, 146 

Thorismund, king of the Visigoths, 

113, 114 

Thorismund, king of the Ostro- 
goths, 47 
Thrace, 26, 27, 29 
Thrasamund, king of the Vandals, 

Thrasaric, king of the Gepids, 177 
Thulwin, Ostrogothic general, 

178, 181, 191, 197 
Tiw, perhajDS worshipped by the 

Goths, 13 
Toledo, councils at, 330, 337, 353 
Toleration, Theoderic's policy of, 

Tomb of Theoderic, 187 
Totila (Badwila), king of the 

Ostrogoths, 278-308 
Toulouse, the Visigoth capital, 

107 ; captured by Clovis, 124 
Tours, 123 
Traditions of the Gothic w^ander- 

i'lg, 23 
Trebizond, 31 
Tufa, 148 

Tulga, king of the Visigoths, 318 
Turcilings, 8 

Ulphilas, see Wulfila 
Uraias, Ostrogothic general, 260, 
268, 272 


Valens, Emperor of the East, 

Valentinian I., Roman emperor, 

^51 . 

Valerian, Roman emperor, 30, 

Valerian, Roman general, 243 
Vandals, 8, 40, 42, 103, 115 
Venantius, Fortunatus, 319 
Verona, battles at, 88, 147 
Vigilius, Pope, 301 
Visigoths, 5, 39, 48, 50-125, 148, 

Vistula, river, 20 


Waladamarca, Amaling princess, 

Walamer, king of the Ostrogoths, 

48, 134 . 
Wallia, king of the Visigoths, 

Wamba, king of the Visigoths, 

Wandilhari " the Bison," 230 
Wideric, Gothic king, 46 
Widumer, uncle of Theoderic, 136 
Wilihari the Goth, general in 

Roman service, 263, 264 
Winithari, 47 

Wisumar, king of the Vandals, 42 
Wileric, king of the Visigoths, 


Witica, king of the Visigoths, 

Witigis, king of the Ostrogoths, 

Wittimer, rebellion of, 345 
Wodan, perhaps worshipped by 

the Goths, 13 
Wulfila, 56-64 ; his translation of 
the Bible, 4, 59 

Zeno, Emperor of the East, 129, 







The Story of the Nations. 

Messrs. G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS take pleasure in 
announcing that they have in course of publication a 
series of historical studies, intended to present in a 
graphic manner the stories of the different nations that 
have attained prominence in history. 

In the story form the current of each national life will 
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periods and episodes will be presented for the reader in 
their philosophical relation to each other as well as to 
universal history. 

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enter into the real life of the peoples, and to bring them 
before the reader as they actually lived, labored, and 
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themselves. In carrying out this plan, the myths, with 
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looked, though these will be carefully distinguished from 
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determined upon : 

THE STORY OF *ANCIENT EGYPT. Prof. George Rawlinson. 
" *CHALDEA. Z. A. Ragozin. 
" *GREECE. Prof. James A. Harrison, 

Washington and Lee University. 
" *ROME. Arthur Oilman. 
" *THE JEWS. Prof. James K. Hosmer, 

Washington University of St. Louis. 
" *CARTHAGE. Prof. Alfred J. Church, 

Universitv College, London. 

" *THE GOTHS. Henry Bradley. 
" *THE NORMANS. Sarah O. Jewett. 
" *PERSIA. S. G. W. Benjamin. 
" *SPAIN. Rev. E. E. and Susan Hale. 
" *GERMANY. S. Baring-Gould. 
" HOLLAND. Prof. C. E. Thorold Rogers. 
" *NORWAY. Hjalmar H. Boyesen. 
" *THE MOORS IN SPAIN. Stanley Lane-Poole. 
" *HUNGARY. Prof. A. VAmbery. 
" EARLY FRANCE. Prof. Gustave Masson. 
" ^ALEXANDER'S EMPIRE. Prof. J. P. Mahaffy. 
" THE HANSE TOWNS. Helen Zimmern. 
" *ASSYRIA. Z. A. Ragozin. 
" *THE SARACENS. Arthur Oilman. 
" TURKEY, Stanley Lane-Poole. 
•' PORTUGAL. H. Morse Stephens. 
" MEXICO. Susan Hale. 
" ^IRELAND. Hon. Emily LA^VLESS. 
* (The volumes starred are now ready, Februarj^ 1888.) 

New York London 

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The first volume^ comprising 

file Hebrew Story from the Creation to the Exile, 

is 7101V ready. Large 12}nOn cloth extra., 

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A History of the Thirty Years* War. By Anton Gindely, Professor 
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1 THE GREAT FUR LAND; or. Sketches of Life in the Hud- 

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